Skip to main content

Full text of "The God of vengeance; drama in three acts"

See other formats


.■\\:itj^Dri7/ 


LDBl': 


BOSTON 
PUBLIC 
LIBRARY 


The 

God  of  Vengeance 

Drama  in  Three  ABs 

By  SHOLOM   ASH 


Authorized  Translation  from  the  Yiddish 
With  Introduction  and  Notes 

by  Isaac  Goldberg 


Preface  by  Abraham  Cahan 

Editor  of  The  Jewish  Daily  Forward 

and  Author  of  "The  Rise  of 

David  Levinsky" 


BOSTON 
THE  STRATFORD  CO.,  PUBLISHERS 
M         C         M        X         V        I        I        I 


Copyright    1918 

The  STRATFORD   CO.,   Publishers 

Boston,    Mass. 


The  Alpine  Press,  Boston,  Mass.,  U.  S.  A. 


Preface 

By  ABRAHAM  CAHAN 

Editor  of  the  Jewish  Daily  Forward  and  author  of 

"Yehi;'    "The    White    Terror    and    the   Red/'    "The 

Rise  of  David  Levinsky"  etc. 

THE  birth  of  Yiddish  literature  in  Russia  and 
the  beginning  of  the  gTeat  Jewish  exodus 
from  that  country  to  America  are  two  effects 
of  one  and  the  same  cause.  The  same  anti-semitic 
crusade  that  forced  the  Children  of  Israel  to  go  be- 
yond the  seas  in  search  of  a  safe  home,  aroused 
them  to  a  new  sense  of  their  racial  self-respect  and 
to  an  unwonted  interest  in  their  native  tongue. 

Prior  to  the  anti-Jewish  riots  of  1881  educated 
Jews  were  wont  to  look  upon  their  mother  tongue 
as  a  jargon  beneath  the  dignity  of  cultured  atten- 
tion. Yiddish,  more  especially  in  its  written  form, 
was  the  language  of  the  untutored.  People  with 
modem  training  spoke  and  wrote  Russian.  As  for 
the  intellectual  class  of  the  Talmudic  type,  it  would 
carry  on  its  correspondence  and,  indeed,  write  its 
essays,  verse  and  fiction,  in  the  language  of  Isaiah. 
One  wrote  Yiddish  to  one's  mother,  for  the  mothers 
of  those  days  were  not  apt  to  understand  anything 
else.  For  the  rest,  the  tongue  of  the  Jewish 
masses  was  never  taken  seriously  and  the  very  no- 

iii 


PREFACE 

tion  of  a  literature  in  "sl  gibberish  that  has  not 
even  a  grammar"  would  have  seemed  ludicrous. 

Popular  stories  and  songs  were  written  in  Yid- 
dish long  before  the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century, 
but,  barring  certain  exceptions,  these  were  intended 
exclusively  for  the  most  ignorant  elements  of  the 
populace,  and  were  contemptuously  described  as 
''servant-maid  literature/'  (As  for  Yiddish  poetry, 
it  was  almost  wholly  confined  to  the  purposes  of 
the  wedding  bard.)  The  exceptions  here  mentioned 
belong  to  the  sixties  and  the  seventies,  when  some 
brilliant  attempts  were  made  in  the  direction  of 
literature  in  the  better  sense  of  the  term  by  S.  J. 
Abramovitch.  But  Abramovitch 's  stories  were  not 
even  regarded  as  vanguard  swallows  heralding  the 
approach  of  Spring.  They  aroused  an  amused  sort 
of  admiration.  Indeed,  it  required  a  peculiar  in- 
dependence of  mind  to  read  them  at  all,  and  while 
they  were  greeted  with  patronizing  applause,  it  was 
a  long  time  before  they  found  imitators. 

All  this  changed  when  the  whip  of  legal  discrimi- 
nation and  massacres  produced  the  ''national 
awakening"  of  the  educated  Jew.  Thousands  of 
enlightened  men  and  women  then  suddenly  made 
the  discovery,  as  it  were,  that  the  speech  of  their 
childhood  was  not  a  jargon,  but  a  real  language, — 
that  instead  of  being  a  wretched  conglomeration  of 
uncouth  words  and  phrases,  it  was  rich  in  neglected 
beauty  and  possessed  a  homely  vigor  full  of  artistic 
possibilities.  A  stimulus  was  given  to  writing  Yid- 
dish "as  the  Gentiles  do  their  mother  tongues." 
Abramovitch  was  hailed  as  "the  father  of  Yiddish 

iv 


PREFACE 

literature ' '  and  his  example  was  followed  by  a  num- 
ber of  new  writers,  several  of  whom  proved  to  be 
men  of  extraordinary  gifts. 

The  movement  bears  curious  resemblance  to  that 
of  the  present  literary  renaissance  of  Ireland. 

Some  truly  marvelous  results  were  soon  achieved, 
the  list  of  writers  produced  by  the  new  literature 
including  the  names  of  men  like  Rabinovitch  (Sho- 
lom  Aleikhem)  and  Peretz,  whose  tales  were  crowned 
with  immense  popularity. 

Sholom  Ash  belongs  to  a  younger  group  of  Yid- 
dish story-tellers  and  now  that  Abramovitch,  Rabin- 
ovitch and  Peretz  are  in  their  graves  (they  have 
all  died  during  the  last  two  years)  he  is  the  most 
popular  living  producer  of  Yiddish  fiction. 

His  narratives  and  plays  are  alive  with  a  spirit 
of  poetic  realism,  with  a  stronger  leaning  toward 
the  poetic  than  toward  reality,  perhaps,  but  always 
throbbing  with  dramatic  force  and  beauty.  Sholom 
Ash's  passion  for  color  and  melody  manifests  it- 
self as  much  in  his  rich,  ravishing  style  as  in  the 
picturesque  images  it  evokes.  The  ''jargon  of  ser- 
vant maids"  becomes  music  in  his  hands. 

His  ''God  of  Vengeance,"  which  is  his  strongest 
play,  is  one  of  the  best  things  he  has  written  in  any 
form.  Absorbingly  interesting  and  instinct  with 
human  sympathy,  it  mounts  to  a  natural  climax  of 
cataclysmal  force  and  great  spiritual  beauty. 

The  theme,  while  thoroughly  original  and  unique, 
reflects  the  artistic  traditions  of  the  country  in 
which  the  author  was  bom  and  bred.  It  was  a  mat- 
ter of  course  that  the  young  literature  of  which  he 


PREFACE 

is  a  conspicuous  representative  should  shape  itself 
under  the  influence  of  the  much  older  and  richer 
literary  treasures  of  Slavic  Russia  and  Poland.  If 
it  was  natural  for  the  novel  of  countries  like 
France,  Germany,  Norway  or  Italy  to  fall  under 
the  sway  of  Turgenev,  Tolstoi,  Dostoyevski,  Chek- 
hov and  Gorki,  how  much  more  so  was  it  for  a 
non-Russian  fiction  produced  on  Russian  soil  to  seek 
guidance,  directly  or  indirectly,  in  the  same  source. 

Human  sympathy  is  the  watchword.  Pity  for 
and  interest  in  the  underdog  —  the  soul  of  Russian 
art  —  became,  from  the  very  outset,  the  underlying 
principle  of  the  new-bom  Yiddish  art.  No  human 
being  is  so  utterly  brutalized  as  to  possess  not  a 
single  spark  worthy  of  the  artist's  sympathetic, 
though  ruthlessly  impartial,  attention, —  this  is  the 
basic  rule  of  Yiddish  letters. 

Himself  a  creature  of  the  gutter,  Yekel  Tchaftcho- 
vitch,  the  central  figure  of  ' '  The  God  of  Vengeance, ' ' 
is  stirred  by  the  noblest  ambition  known  to  a  father 
in  the  world  of  orthodox  Judaism.  Imbedded  in  the 
slime  that  fills  Yekel 's  soul  is  a  jewel  of  sparkling 
beauty.  But  the  very  income  by  which  he  seeks 
to  secure  his  daughter's  spiritual  splendor  contains 
the  germs  of  her  loathsome  fall  and  of  his  own 
crushing  defeat. 

The  clash  between  Yekel 's  revolting  career  and 
his  paternal  idealism,  and  the  catastrophe  to  which 
it  inevitably  leads  form  one  of  the  strongest  and 
most  fascinating  situations  known  to  the  modern 
drama. 

vi 


PREFACE 

I  cannot  conclude  without  a  word  of  well-earned 
praise  for  the  English  version  of  *'The  God  of 
Vengeance."  Dr.  Isaac  Goldberg's  translation  is 
not  only  a  thoroughly  correct  and  felicitous  equiva- 
lent of  the  original,  but  a  piece  of  art  in  itself. 


New  York  City,  April,  1918. 


vu 


Introduction 

SHOLOM  ASH  is  one  of  the  cliief  authors  in  con- 
temporary Yiddish  letters, —  a  literature  at 
present  enjoying  a  renaissance  that  attests  the 
remarkable  vitality  of  a  people  long  oppressed  in 
intellectual  no  less  than  in  economic  domains, —  a 
literature  that  has  much  to  teach  America  in  the  way 
of  fearlessness  before  the  facts  of  life,  frankness  in 
their  interpretation  and  persistent  idealism  in  face 
of  the  most  degrading  and  debasing  environment. 
Indeed,  the  conjunction  of  squalid  surroundings, 
sordid  occupation  and  idealistic  yearning  to  be  met 
so  frequently  in  Jewish  writers  arises  most  natur- 
ally from  the  peculiar  conditions  of  much  of  the  life 
in  ghettos  the  world  over. 

It  is  interesting  to  consider  Ash's  *'The  God  of 
Vengeance"  in  connection  with  a  play  like  ''Mrs. 
Warren's  Profession."  To  be  sure,  there  is  no 
technical  resemblance  between  the  two  dramas;  nor, 
despite  an  external  similarity  in  backgrounds,  is 
there  any  real  identity  of  purpose.  Shaw's  play  is 
essentially  sociological,  and  is  a  drama  of  disillu- 
sionment. Ash's  piece  glows  with  poetic  realism 
and  recounts  an  individual  tragedy  not  without  sym- 
bolic power.  Yet  the  essentially  (though  not  con- 
ventionally) moral  earnestness  of  both  Shaw  and  Ash 
brings  the  circles  of  their  themes  in  a  sense  tangent 
to  each  other. 

Mrs.    Warren   cherishes   no    delusions   about   her 


INTRODUCTION 

dubious  profession, —  neither  the  delusion  of  that 
sentimentalization  of  the  prostitute  which  Dumas 
helped  so  much  to  effect  and  which  Augier  strove  to 
combat,  nor  the  delusion  of  the  conser\^ative,  con- 
ventional horror  before  an  institution  for  the  per- 
petuation of  which  conservatism  and  convention- 
alism are  much  to  blame.  If  Yekel  and  his  wife  (in 
Ash's  play)  are  not  so  enlightened  as  Mrs.  Warren 
in  their  views  upon  the  traffic  off  which  they  live, 
they  are  in  their  own  crude  way  equally  sincere  in 
beholding  in  it  a  business  quite  as  legitimate  as  any 
other.  With  the  same  inconsistency  with  which 
Hindel  implores  Heaven  for  aid  in  achieving  her 
nefarious  aims,  after  which  she  promises  to  be  a 
model  wife  and  mother  (See  Act  Two),  Mrs.  War- 
ren at  the  end  of  Shaw's  play  swears  by  Heaven 
that  henceforth  she  will  lead  a  life  of  evil. 

In  the  case  of  Yekel  and  his  wife,  as  in  Mrs.  War- 
ren's, another  touch  of  inconsistency  is  added  by 
the  agreement  that  theirs  is  not  the  best  of  profes- 
sions. Crofts,  too,  in  the  English  play,  discusses 
the  business  with  all  the  matter-of-f actness  of  Ash 's 
Shloyme,  yet  considers  himself  a  gentleman  none 
the  less. 

Rifkele,  of  course,  is  no  Vivie.  Ash's  simple- 
minded  Jewish  girl  is  a  victim,  not  a  rebel.  Yet 
in  either  case  the  daughter  is  lost  to  the  parents, 
and  the  power  of  money  is  of  no  avail  to  Avin  the 
child  back.  And  just  as  Yekel,  in  his  impotence, 
blashphemously  thrusts  the  Holy  Scroll  from  his 
household,  so  does  Mrs.  Warren,  defeated  in  her  at- 
tempt to  win  back  her  daughter,  cry  ''From  this 


INTRODUCTION 

time  forth,  so  help  me  Heaven  in  my  last  hour,  I'll 
do  wrong  and  nothing  but  wrong.  And  I'll  prosper 
on  it."  Perhaps,  too,  the  retribution  which  in  each 
case  is  visited  upon  the  parent  arises  from  the  fact 
that  both  Mrs.  Warren  and  Yekel  have,  in  Vivie's 
accusatory  words,  "lived  one  life  and  believed  in 
another. ' ' 

'*The  God  of  Vengeance,"  despite  conclusions  too 
easily  drawn,  is  not  a  sex  play.  When  Ash  wishes 
to  deal  with  sex  as  sex  he  is  not  afraid  to  handle 
the  subject  with  all  the  poetry  and  power  at  his 
command.  Such  a  play  as  his  "Jephthah's  Daugh- 
ter" treats  the  elemental  urge  of  sex  with  daring, 
beauty  and  Dionj'siac  abandon.  Here,  too,  a  golden 
symbolism  wafts  through  the  piece.  Again,  in  his 
powerful  novel  ''Mottke  the  Vagabond,"  Ash  has 
given  us  scenes  from  the  underworld  of  Warsaw 
that  are  unparalleled  for  unflinching  truth  to  detail. 
**The  God  of  Vengeance,"  however,  despite  the 
sordid  environment  in  which  the  play  takes  place, 
possesses  a  certain  moral  beauty, —  a  beauty  much 
dimmed,  perhaps,  by  the  repellant  human  beings 
who  are  its  carriers,  but  a  beauty  none  the  less. 
Its  symbolism  and  its  poetry  lift  it  far  above  the 
brothel  in  which  it  takes  place.  And  what  a  strong 
conception  is  the  Holy  Scroll,  itself  one  of  the  chief 
characters,  and  how  frightfully  eloquent  in  the  myste- 
rious, religious  power  that  the  dramatist  has  woven 
around  it!* 

*The  Holy  Scroll,  the  religious  significance  of  which  is 
fully  explained  in  the  course  of  the  play,  is  a  parchment 
manuscript  containing  the  first  five  books  of  the  Bible,  to- 
gether known  as   the   Torah,    or   Law.      (Pentateuch). 

xi 


INTRODUCTION 

First  produced  by  the  famous  director  Max  Rein- 
hardt,  at  the  Deutsches  Theater,  Berlin,  in  1910, 
Ash^s  powerful  play  quickly  made  its  way  to  the 
chief  stages  of  Europe.  It  has  been  played  all  over 
Germany,  Austria,  Russia,  Poland,  Holland,  Nor- 
way, Sweden  and  Italy.  In  Italy  it  created  a 
marked  impression  during-  the  entire  season  of  1916. 
**The  God  of  Vengeance"  has  been  translated  into 
Hebrew,  German,  Russian,  Polish,  Dutch,  Swedish, 
Norwegian,  Italian  and  French. 

Ash  himself  is  yet  a  young  man,  having  been  born 
near  Warsaw,  some  thirty-seven  years  ago.  He  is 
at  present  settled  in  New  York,  where  pages  flow  in 
rapid  succession  from  his  prolific  pen.  Among  his 
better  known  works  are  the  following: 

THE  TOWN.  A  collection  of  sketches  depicting 
Yiddish  life  in  the  '^staedtil"  of  the  Old  World. 
It  was  this  work  that  brought  him  into  prominence 
at  the  age  of  twenty-four. 

MERI  and  THE  ROAD  TO  SELF.  A  pair  of 
novels  forming  a  continuous  whole,  in  which  the 
author,  with  a  wealth  of  color  and  episode,  depicts 
the  wanderings  of  Jewish  souls  in  search  of  self- 
realization.  The  background,  mainly  that  of  the 
Russian  revolution  of  1905,  shifts  to  various  parts 
of  the  globe.  The  books  are  rich  in  poetry  and 
movement,  and  have  been  referred  to  as  the  epic 
of  the  Yiddish  part  in  the  revolution  of  1905.  Be- 
sides this  the  love  story  of  Men  Rosenzweig  and 
Misha,  and  the  figures  of  Rachel  and  Kovalski  the 

xii 


INTRODUCTION 

artist,  lend  to  the  novels  all  the  charm  that  love  can 
add  to  adventure  and  beautiful  language  to  both. 

MOTTKE  THE  VAGABOND.  (Translated  into 
English.)  A  powerful  tale  of  life  in  the  underworld 
of  Warsaw,  and  the  career  of  a  Yiddish  **  cellar- 
child."  American  critics  have  found  Ash,  in  this 
book,  comparable  in  various  respects  to  such  authors 
as  Hugo,  Dickens  and  Gorki. 

THE  SINNER.  (Translated  into  English.)  A 
one-act  symbolic  play  of  intense  power,  which  has 
been  likened  for  its  atmosphere  to  certain  of  Maeter- 
linck's dramas.  The  story,  which  deals  with  the 
refusal  of  a  Jewish  grave  to  receive  the  corpse  of  a 
man  who  has  sinned  by  marrying  out  of  the  faith, 
is  developed  with  penetrating  skill  and  impartial 
outlook. 

OUR  FAITH.  A  full-length  drama  upon  a  theme 
similar  to  that  just  touched  upon.  The  author's  re- 
fusal to  cater  to  orthodox  views  shows  his  artistic 
independence. 

SHORT  STORIES.  The  best  of  the  numerous 
short  stories  that  Ash  has  published  in  his  various 
collections  attain  a  high  degree  of  artistic  excel- 
lence. That  same  nervous  prose  as  distinguishes 
his  longer  pieces,  that  same  linguistic  iridescence, — 
one  might  term  it, —  as  he  achieves  in  such  remark- 
able places  as  Chapter  XIII  (Part  One)  of  ''Meri" 
and  Chapter  XLI  (Part  Two)  of  ''The  Road  to 
Self,"  are  encountered  often  in  his  many  shorter 
tales. 

xiii 


INTRODUCTION 

In  his  more  notable  work  Ash  glows  with  a  spon- 
taneous artistry.  It  is  this  part  of  Ash's  work  that 
holds  much  pleasure  in  store  for  an  increasing  num- 
ber of  American  readers  who  are  awakening  to  the 
beauties  of  Yiddish  literature. 

ISAAC  GOLDBERG. 
Roxbury,  Mass.,  April,  1918. 


XIV 


Persons  of  the  Drama 

YEKEL  TCHAFTCHOVITCH,  familiarly 
known  as  the  ^' Uncle;''  the  owner  of  a 
hrothel. 

SARAH,  his  ivife;  formerly  a  prostitute. 

RIFKELE,  their  daughter;  a  young  girl  of 
about  seventeen. 

HINDEL,  first  girl  of  the  hrothel;  a  girl  of  some 
thirty  odd  years,  hut  much  older  in  appear- 
ance. 

MANKE,  second  girl;  rather  young. 

REIZEL,  third  girl. 

BASHA,  a  country  lass,  recently  arrived. 

SHLOYME,  a  procurer;  RindeVs  hetrothed,  a 
handsome  chap  of  twenty-six, 

REB  ALI,  a  matchmaker ;  neighhor  of  the 
''Uncle.'' 

REB   YANKEV,   a  pious   Scrihe. 

A  STRANGER,  father  of  Rifkele's  proposed 
hushand. 

A  POOR  WOMAN,  blind  in  one  eye. 

Poor  Men  and  Women  of  the  neighborhood. 

Time:     The   Present. 
Place:     One  of  the  larger  towns  of  a 
Russian  province. 


ACT  I 


Scene:  The  '^Uncle's"  private  dwelling  on 
the  ground  floor  of  an  old  woode^i  house.  Be- 
low, in  the  cellar,  is  the  brothel.  A  flight  of 
rickety  wooden  stairs,  whose  creaking  announces 
the  coming  of  all  visitors,  leads  from  the  outside 
into  the  home,  which  consists  of  a  large  room 
with  a  low  ceiling.  The  furniture  is  new,  in  the 
cheap  Warsaw  style,  and  does  not  at  all  har- 
monize with  the  old-fashioned  structure.  On 
the  wall  hang  pictures  embroidered  upon  canvas, 
depicting  scenes  from  the  Bible,  such  as  ^'Adam 
and  Eve  at  the  Tree  of  Knowledge,''  etc.  These 
are  evidently  a  young  girl's  handiwork.  At  the 
rear,  the  door  leading  to  the  outside.  To  the 
right,  a  door  leading  to  Rifkele's  room.'  *  At 
each  side  of  this  door,  placed  against  the  wall,  a 
bed  piled  high  with  bedding.  To  the  left,  two 
low  windows,  hung  with  curtains  and  provided 
with  shutters  that  close  from  the  inside*  Before 
the  windows,  pots  of  flowers;  between,  a  cup- 
board; at  the  side  of  one  of  the  windows,  a 
bureau. 

The  finishing  touches  are  being  put  to  the 
cleaning  of  the  room.  .  .  Evidently  guests  are  ex- 
pected. .  .  Extra  tables  and  benches  have  been 
placed  ahout,  laden  with  baskets  of  bread,  cake, 
fruit,  etc. 

An  afternoon  in  early  spring. 


[2] 


Act  I 

Sarah  and  Rifkele  are  discovered  as  the  cur- 
tain rises.  Sarah  is  a  tall,  slender,  prepossessing 
woman.  Her  features  have  become  coarsened, 
yet  they  retain  traces  of  her  former  beauty, 
which  has  even  now  a  tone  of  insolence.  On  her 
head  lies  a  wig,  through  which,  from  time  to 
time,  shows  a  lock  of  her  alluring  hair.  She  is 
dressed  quite  soberly,  as  befits  a  mother,  yet  a 
vulgar  display  of  jewels  spoils  this  effect.  Her 
movements,  too,  reveal  that  she  is  not  quite  lib- 
erated from  the  influences  of  the  world  out  of 
which  she  has  risen. 

Rifkele  is  a  fascinating  girl,  dressed  very 
neatly  and  modestly;  still  in  short  dresses,  with 
two  long  braids  hanging  across  her  shoulders. 
She  is  busy  decorating  the  room. 

Rifkele,  as  she  pins  some  paper  flowers  to 
the  curtain. 

There!  That's  the  way,  mamma  dear.  And 
now  to  decorate  the  mirror.  See,  mamma  dear. 
Won't  this  be  pretty? 

Sarah,   busy  arranging  the  table. 
Hurry,  daughter  dear,  hurry.     Your  father 
has  already  gone  to  ask  the  guests  to  bring  the 
Holy  Scroll  home. 

[3] 


j  THE   GOD   OF  VENGEANCE 

KlFKELE 

Won't  that  be  lovely!  We'll  have  a  house 
full  of  people.  .  .  There'll  be  playing  and  sing- 
ing. .  .  Yes,  mamma  dear? 

Sarah 
Yes,  my  darling.     It's  a  sacred  event,  —  a 
great  merit  in  the  eyes  of  God.  .  .  Not  everyone 
can  have  a  Holy  Scroll  written.    Only  a  man  of 
dignity,  a  person  of  standing. 

RrlFKELE 

And  will  there  be  girls,  too?  And  dancing? 
Eeally,  mamma  dear?  (Suddenly.)  I'll  have  to 
buy  myself  a  waist,  ma.  And  a  pair  of  white 
slippers.  (Sticking  out  her  shoes.)  You  can't 
dance  in  shoes,   can   you? 

Sarah 
When  you'll  be  engaged,  in  God's  good  time. 
Next  Passover  I'll  make  you  a  long  dress  and 
buy  you  slippers.  Girls  will  come,  fine  young 
ladies,  respectable  ones.  And  you'll  chum  with 
them. 

RiFKELE,  stubbornly. 

You're  always  putting  things  off  until  Pass- 
over. I'm  a  grown-up  girl  already.  (Looking 
into  the  mirror.)  See,  ma.  I'm  a  big  girl. 
(Showing  her  hair.)  And  just  see  how  long  my 
braids  are.     Why,  Manke  tells  me.  .  .   (Inter- 

[4] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

rupting  herself.)    And  Manke  will  be  there,  too, 
won't  she,  mamma  dear? 

Sarah 
No,  my  darling.    Only  nice,  respectable  girls. 
For  you  are  a  respectable  child,  a  decent  Jewish 
daughter.  .  . 

RiFKELE 

Why  not,  mamma  dear?  Manke  sketched  a 
David's  shield  for  me  on  the  cover  of  the  Holy 
Scroll.  .  .  I'm  going  to  embroider  it  now  in  silk 
thread,  —  a  wreath  of  leaves  and  a  garland  of 
flowers.  You'll  see  how  beautiful  it'll  be,  ma. 
{Points  to  the  pictures  on  the  wall.)  A  hundred 
times  prettier  than  these.   .   . 

Sarah,  with  deep  concern. 
"Woe  is  me !     Don 't  tell  that  to  your  father ! 
He'll  scold  and  fly  into  a  rage  when  he  hears  of 
it. 

RiFKELE 

Why,  mamma  dear?  It's  for  the  Holy  Scroll, 
isn't  it? 

Sarah 
Your  father  will  rave!   (Footsteps  are  heard.) 
Hush,  Rifkele,  father  is  coming. 

Yekel,  still  without. 
What?     Do  they  think  I'll  get  down  on  my 
knees  and  beg  them?    Not  on  their  lives!  (En- 

[5] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

ters.  He  is  a  tall,  strong  man  of  about  forty, 
stout;  swarthy  countenance,  covered  ivith  dark 
hair;  his  Mack  heard  cut  round.  He  speaks  in 
loud,  gruff  tones,  at  the  same  time  making  coarse 
gestures  and  grasping  the  lapel  of  the  man 
whom  he  happens  to  he  addressing.  Despite 
this,  his  face  and  person  heam  with  a  certain 
frank  geniality.)  So  they  won't  come!  They 
don't  have  to!  ...  So  I  got  together  some  poor 
folks.  .  .  Don't  you  worry.  .  .  We'll  have  plenty 
of  customers  for  our  honey-cakes  and  our  geese. 
{Noticing  Rifkele,  he  sits  doicn.)  Come  here, 
my  little  Rifkele,  come  to  papa. 

Saeah,  angered,  hut  trying  to  conceal  her  feel- 
ings, continues  to  set  the  tahle. 
Do  they  think  they'll  soil  their  pedigree  by 
coming  to  you  ?  And  when  they  need  to  borrow 
a  hundred-rouble  note.  .  .  or  take  a  charity  con- 
tribution. .  .  they're  not  at  all  ashamed  of  your 
company  then.  .  .  The  Gentile  is  impure,  but 
his  money's  untainted.* 

Yekel 
She's   afraid  already.     Something  new  to 
worry  about,  eh?     Never  fear,  it'll  spoil  noth- 
ing of  yours.   .    .    {Calls  Rifkele.)  Well,   well, 
come  to  daddy,  won't  you? 

■  The  force  of  this  in  the  original  is  increased  by  the  use  of 
the  terms  'trayf  and  'kosher,'  i.  e.,  that  which,  accord- 
ing to  the  Mosaic  dietary  laws,  is  unfit  or  fit  to  be  eaten. 

[6] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

RiFKELE,    approaches   her  father   very   unwill- 
ingly, in  fear. 
What  does  papa  dear  want? 

Yekel 
Don't  be  afraid,  Rifkele,  I  won't  hurt  you. 
{Takes  her  hand.)  You  like  your  father,  don't 
you? 

Rifkele 
Nods  "yes.'' 

Yekel 
Then  why  are  you  afraid  of  him? 

Rifkele 
I  don't  know. 

Yekel 
Don't  be  afraid  of  papa.  He  loves  you. 
Very,  very  much.  Today  I'm  having  a  Holy 
Scroll  written.  It  costs  a  good  deal  of  money. 
All  for  you,  my  child,  all  for  you.  {Rifkele  is 
silent.  Pause.)  And  with  God's  help,  when  you 
are  betrothed,  I'll  buy  your  sweetheart  a  gold 
watch  and  chain  —  the  chain  will  weigh  half  a 
pound.  .  .  Papa  loves  you  very  dearly.  {Rifkele 
is  silent.  She  lowers  her  head  bashfully. 
Pause.y  Don't  be  ashamed.  There's  nothing 
wrong  about  being  engaged.  God  has  ordained 
it.  {Pause.)  That's  nothing.  Every^bcdy  gets 
engaged  and  married.  {Rifkele  is  silent. 
Pause.)  Well,  now.     Do  you  love  daddy? 

[7] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

RiFKELE,  nodding,  and  speaking  softly. 
Yes. 

Yekel 
Well,  then.  What  do  you  want  me  to  buy 
you?  Tell  me,  Rifkele.  {She  makes  no  reply.) 
Tell  me,  now.  Don't  be  afraid.  Your  daddy 
loves  you.  Tell  me,  like  a  good  little  girlie. 
What  shall  I  buy  you?  {Rifkele  is  silent.) 

Sarah,  busy  at  the  table,  to  Rifkele, 
Well,  why  don't  you  answer  when  your  father 
speaks  to  you? 

Rifkele 
I  don't  know.  .  . 

Sarah,  to  Yekel, 
She  wants  a  silk  waist  and  a  pair  of  white 
slippers. 

Yekel 
Is  that  it?    A  silk  waist  and  a  pair  of  white 
slippers  ?    Eh  ? 

Rifkele 
Nods  ''yes,'' 

Yekel 

You    certainly    deserve    them.     {From    his 

pockets,  which  jingle  with  coins,  he  takes  out  a 

gold-piece  and  offers  it  to  Rifkele.)  Here,  give 

this  to  mamma.    And  let  her  buy  them  for  you. 

[8] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

{Rifkele  takes  the  money  and  hands  it  to  her 
mother.  On  the  stairs  outside  is  heard  the 
noise  of  tJie  poor  folk  whom  Yekel  has  invited. 
Yekel  turns  to  Sarah.)  See?  You  said  (He 
opens  the  door.)  that  you  would  have  no  ^ests. 
(Calls.)  Now  then.  Come  in.  Come  in.  (En- 
ter a  crowd  of  poor  people,  men  and  women,  at 
first  singly,  as  if  they  were  stealing  in;  then  more 
boldly,  in  groups.  All  greet  Yekel,  some  of 
them  ironically.) 

People  in  the  Crowd 
Good  day  to  you,    host!  (To    Sarah.)  Good 
day  to  you,  hostess. 

Sarah 
Puts  on  an  apron,  places  in  it  loaves  of  white 
bread,  rolls,  honey-cakes  and  so  forth,  and  dis- 
tributes them  among  the  guests. 

One  op  the  Poor  Men 
Long  life  to  you,  hostess,  and  may  you  live 
to  celebrate  joyous  events  beyond  number. 

A  Woman 
May  the  Holy  Scroll  bring  good  fortune  and 
be  a  blessing  to  your  home. 

Yekel,  throiving  slices  of  white  bread  to  the 
poor  people.     To  Sarah. 
Give  them  a  whole  pound  of  cake  apiece.  And 
a  bottle   of  brandy   to  take  home  with   them. 

[9] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Let  them  know  that  I'm  celebrating  today.  .  . 
Never  mind.    I  can  well  afford  it. 

A  Woman,  Blind  in  One  Eye,  praising  Yekel 
and  Sarah  before  her  poor  neighbors. 
This  is  a  house  for  you,  such  luck  may  I  have. 
Nobody  ever  leaves  this  place  empty-handed. 
There's  always  a  plate  of  soup  for  the  sick,  a 
shirt  for  a  poor  fellow.  What  then?  Do  you 
think  you  can  get  anything  over  there  where 
the  proud  purses  live?*  {Sarah,  as  if  not  hear- 
ing the  woman's  words,  throws  into  the  apron  of 
the  latter  a  few  more  portions  of  food.  The 
old  woman  holds  up  her  apron  and  continues 
to  talk.)  Whenever  there's  a  celebration  here.  .  . 
whoever  you  are.  .  .  however  humble  your 
trade.  .  . 

Other  Poor  Folks,  among  themselves. 
That's  so.    May  we  know  such  luck.  .  .  May 
such  good  fortune  be  ours!  .  . 

Yekel,   takes   out  a  handful  of  small  change 
and  casts  it  into  Rifkele's  apron. 
Here,  divide  this  among  the  poor  folks.   {Rif- 
kele  distributes  the  money.) 

The  Blind  Woman,  notv  enthusiastic,  pointing 

to  Rifkele. 

And  show  me,  in  the   whole  town,   another 

girl  as  respectable  as  she!  .  .  .   {To  the  other 

women.)  Why,    Eabbis    haven't    such    virtuous 

*  Literally,    'under  the  high  windows.' 

[10] 


THE   GOD   OF   VENGEANCE 

children!  {More  softly,  yet  loiid  enough  for 
Yekel  and  Sarah  to  hear.)  God  alone  knows 
how  such  a  pure  child  came  to  them.  .  .  Imagine, 
brought  up  in  such  a  place,  —  may  Heaven  not 
punish  us  for  mentioning  it.  {Louder.)  And 
they  guard  her  like  the  apple  of  their  eye.  .  . 
They  weigh  and  measure  every  step  she  takes. 
It's  a  delight  to  look  at  her.  {Goes  over  to 
Yekel.)  Never  mind.  Everybody  knows  it. 
{Pointing  to  Rifkele.)  If  I  had  a  Rabbi  for  a 
son,  I'd  choose  her  for  his  bride. 

The  Other  Women,  among  themselves. 
Everybody  knows  it.     It's  the   talk  of  the 
town. 

Yekel 
Just  wait  till  I  lead  her  under  the  wedding 
canopy,  in  God's  good  time.  You'll  all  get  a 
whole  goose  apiece,  and  a  pickerel  just  out  of 
the  water,  and  roubles  galore.  And  if  I  lie, 
then  my  name  isn  't  Yekel  Tchaf  tchovitch  ! 

The  Blind  Woman 
And  I  tell  you,  it's  just  as  if  she  had  been 
brought  up  in  a  synagogue,  —  Heaven  pardon 
the  word  in  this  place.  So  pure  and  modest.  .  . 
finer  than  any  child  of  the  most  respectable 
family. 

The  Other  Women 
Folks  will  learn  all  about  it.    It's  the  talk  of 
the  town. 

[11] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Yekel,  distributing  glasses  of  brandy.     Blurts 
out,  before  he  realizes  what  he  is  saying. 
Even  though  her  father  is  Yekel  Tchaftcho- 

vitch.  .  . 


Sarah,  giving  out  glasses. 

Look  at  the  people  before    whom    he    must 
■>a  st ! 


Yekel,  pouring  brandy  into  glasses.  With  pas- 
sionate unrestraint. 
It  makes  no  difference  to  me,  —  poor  or  rich. 
Let  everybody  know,  —  let  the  whole  town 
know.  What  7  am,  I  am.  {Points  to  his  ivife.) 
What  she  is,  she  is.  .  .  It's  all  true,  —  every- 
thing. But  let  them  not  breathe  a  word  against 
my  daughter.  .  .  And  if  anyone  dares  to  do  so, 
I'll  break  his  head  with  this  bottle  here.  Even 
if  it's  the  Rabbi  himself,  it'll  make  no  difference 
to  me !  .  .  .  She 's  purer  than  his  own  daughter. 
(Pointing  to  his  neck.)  You  may  slash  my 
throat  if  that   isn't   so! 

Sarah,  stops  passing  around  the  brandy. 

We've  heard  all  that  before.  .  .  That's  enough. 
{Rubs  her  hands  and  goes  to  a  corner  for  the 
broom.)  We  must  clean  the  room  now  for  our 
guests.  {Turning  to  the  poor  folk.)  You're  not 
offended,  I  hope? 

The  Poor  People 
Not  at  all,  hostess.     May  happiness  and  joy 

[12] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

be  yours  forever.  .  .  {They  leave  the  room  singly , 
littering  profuse  blessings.  Yekel,  hehind  his 
wife's  back,  throws  them  more  food.  The  last 
tvoman  speaks  to  Bifkele,  loud  e^iough  for  the 
others  to  hear.)  Go,  Rifkele,  and  prepare  the 
robe  for  the  Holy  Scroll.  Reb  AH  will  soon 
come,  and  the  Scribe,  too.  {Rifkele  goes  into 
her  room.) 

Sarah,  sweeping  the  floor. 
To  think  that  he  had  to  boast  before  such 
people !  I  tell  you !  .  .  .  And  otherwise,  do  you 
imagine,  they  wouldn't  have  come  to  you? 
Make  a  celebration  every  day,  and  every  day 
you'll  have  them  here.  In  respectable  houses 
people  know  how  to  act  so  that  they'll  be  looked 
up  to.  What  do  you  think,  —  they're  all  like 
you,  with  your  "Hello,  good  brother!"  right 
away?    What  kind  of  host  are  you,  anyway? 

Yekel 

Do  you  expect  respectable  folks  to  come  to 
your  home?  Have  you  forgotten  who  you  are, 
perhaps  ? 

Sarah 

''Who  you  are!"  What!  Have  you  stolen 
anything?  You  have  a  business.  Everybody 
has  his  own  business.  You  don't  compel  any- 
body, do  you  ?  You  may  deal  in  what  you  please, 
can't  you,  if  you  yourself  do  no  wrong?  .  .  .  Just 
try  to  give  them  some  money,  and  see  whether 
they'll  take  it  from  you  or  not! 

[131 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Yekel 
They'll  take  it  from  you,  all  right,  but  they'll 
look  upon  you  as  a  dog,  just  the  same.  .  .  And 
at  the  synagogue  you'll  have  the  back  seat,  and 
they'll  never  call  you  up  to  the  altar,  to  read 
from  the  Holy  Book. 

Sarah 

Do  you  really  believe  that  they're  any  better 
than  you?  You  don't  need  their  favors!  .  .  . 
That's  the  way  of  the  world  these  days:  if 
you've  got  the  money,  even  so  pious  a  Jew  as 
Eeb  Ali  comes  to  your  home,  —  a  Pietist,* 
mind  you,  —  and  accepts  handsome  alms  from 
you.  He  asks  no  questions,  —  whether  you  got 
it  by  theft  or  by  murder.  So  long  as  you  have 
the  cash.     That's  the  chief  point! 

Yekel 

Don't  climb  too  high,  Sarah.  Do  you  hear? 
Not  too  high.  .  .  For  if  you  do,  some  fine  day 
you'll  fall  and  break  your  neck.  (Shakes  a  warn- 
ing finger  at  her.)  And  don't  try  to  break  into 
the  upper  crust.  Don't,  I  tell  you.  You've  a 
home  of  your  own,  —  stay  there.  You've  got 
bread,  —  eat.  But  don't  intrude  where  you're 
not  wanted.  .  .  Every  dog  must  know  his  own 
kennel.  (Leaving  the  table,  with  a  gesture  of  ap- 
prehension.)  The  whole  business  is  beginning  to 

*  'Khossid.'      The     'Khassidim'     are     noted     for    the     religious 
frenzy   of   their  worship. 

[14] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

make  me  uneasy.  .   .  I'm  afraid  that  this  will 
bring  the  doAvnfall  of  our  hopes.  .  . 

Sarah,  stops  her  tvorJc,  placing  her  arms  akimbo. 
And  you  're  a  man  !  Shame  yourself !  I  'm 
only  a  woman,  but  I  can  say  to  myself,  ''The 
past  is  gone  forever. ' '  Whiz !  Flown  away !  .  .  . 
There's  nobody  to  be  ashamed  of.  The  whole 
world  isn't  any  better.  Why,  if  it  were,  people 
would  have  to  go  about  with  their  heads  bowed 
to  the  earth.  {Coyning  nearer  to  him.)  In  a  little 
while  you'll  have  money.  You  close  up  shop 
and  not  a  rooster  crows.  .  .  Who  needs  to  know 
what  we  were? 

Yekel,  meditatively. 
That  would  be  best.  .  .  {Pause.)  To  buy  a 
pack  of  horses  and  smuggle  them  across  the  bor- 
der, just  like  Eisikl  Furman  did.  .  .  And  become 
a  respectable  person.  .  .  not  have  people  eye  you 
like  a  thief. 

Sarah,   considering  the   matter. 
Just  the  same  it's  too  bad  to  go  out  of  our 
business.  .  .  You'll  never  make  such  good  money 
from  your  horses.     Here,  at  least,  it's  all  cash. 

Yekel 
That's  certainly  so. 

Sarah,  goes  into  the  next  room,  returns  with  a 

tray  of  plates  and  begins  to  arrange  them  upon 

the  table. 

[15J 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

And  just  see  what  a  daughter  we  have.  Thank 
God,  more  decent  than  all  the  daughters  of  the 
best  families  in  town.  She'll  marry  some  highly 
esteemed  fellow,  raise  a  respectable  family.  .  . 
Isn't  that  so?     Then  what's  wrong? 

Yekel,  arising. 

Yes,  with  an  example  like  you  as  her  guide. 
Go,  let  Manke  steal  up  to  her  from  downstairs.  .  . 
Have  her  here,  in  this  room,  all  the  time ! 

Sarah 

Just  see  how  he 's  carrying  on !  I  once  asked 
Manke  to  teach  Rifkele  how  to  embroider  on 
canvas.  Rifkele 's  a  young  lady,  you  must  re- 
member. Has  she  any  companions  at  all?  You 
don't  let  her  step  out  into  the  street.  .  .  (Pause.) 
If  you  don't  want  her  to  have  anything  to  do 
with  Manke,  then  she  won't. 

Yekel 

No,  I  don't  want  her  to!  Do  you  hear?  I 
don't!  I  don't  want  my  home  to  mix  with 
downstairs.  (Points  to  the  cellar.)  My  home 
must  be  kept  apart  from  that  place !  Under- 
stand? Just  like  pure  and  impure!*  Below 
(Indicating  the  cellar.)  is  a  brothel,  and  here 
lives  a  pure  girl,  worthy  of  marrying  the  best 
of  men.  Do  you  hear  ?  (Bangs  his  fist  upon  the 
table.)      A   pure,   virtuous   maiden   lives   here! 

*  Cf.  previous  note  on    'trayf    and    'kosher.' 

[16] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Keep  the  two  places  apart!  .  .  .  {Footsteps  are 
heard  outside,) 

Sarah 
All  right.  Just  as  you  say.  Only  don't  make 
such  a  racket.  {Listening.)  Hush.  People  are 
coming.  It's  Reb  Ali.  {She  thrusts  her  hair 
hack  underneath  her  wig  and  pulls  off  her  apron. 
Yekel  strokes  his  heard  and  straightens  his  coat. 
Both  stand  hij  the  door,  expectantly.  .  .  The 
door  opens  wide.  Enter  Shloyme  and  Hindel. 
The  first  is  a  tall,  sturdy  chap;  wears  long  hoots 
and  a  short  coat.  He  is  a  knavish  fellow,  whose 
eyes  hlink  with  stealthy  cunning  as  he  speaks. 
The  second  is  a  rather  old  girl,  with  a  wan  face 
and  wearing  clothes  much  too  young  for  her 
years.  Shloyme  and  Hindel  are  evidently  at 
ease  and  feel  at  home.) 

Yekel,  to  Sarah. 
Take  a  look  at  these  guests  of  mine,  will  you  ? 
{To  Shloyme.)     I  do  no  business  here.     Down 
below.     Everything  down  below.     {Pointing  to 
the  cellar.)     I'll  be  down  right  away. 

Shloyme 
What's  the  hurry  to  get  rid  of  us?    Are  you 
already  ashamed  of  our  company? 

Yekel 
Well,  what  have  you  got  to  say  for  yourself? 

[17] 


THE   GOD    OF   VENGEANCE 

Shloyme 

You're  having  a  celebration  today,  aren't 
you?  So  we  came  in  to  wish  you  good  luck. 
Old  friends.  .  .  eh,  what? 

Sarah 
Look  at  our  ''old  friends,"  will  you? 

Yekel 
That  was  all  once  upon  a  time.  From  today 
on,  —  all  over!  You  want  to  talk  business 
with  me?  All  right.  But  everything  down- 
stairs. {Indicating  the  haseme7it.)  Here  I 
don't  know  you,  nor  do  you  know  me,  —  from 
now  on.  You're  welcome  to  a  glass  of  brandy. 
{Pours  out  brandy.)  But  be  quick.  Somebody 
might  come. 

Shloyme,   taking  his  glass,   speaks  to  Hindely 
roguishly. 

You  see?  It's  a  great  thing  to  get  married. 
You  become  a  somebody,  on  a  par  with  every- 
body else.  And  you  have  Scrolls  of  the  Law 
written.  Not  like  us  chaps,  us  scamps.  (To 
Yekel.)  Yes,  and  I've  really  taken  an  example 
from  you  and  have  today  become  engaged  to 
this  thing  here.  {Points  to  Hindel.)  She'll 
make  a  dandy  housewife,  eh  ?  You  '11  see.  She  '11 
put  on  a  wig  and  she'll  be  the  living  image  of  a 
Rabbi's  wife.    As  true  as  we're  alive.  .  . 

[18] 


THE   GOD    OF   VENGEANCE 

Yekel 

May  I  always  hear  such  good  news!  So! 
You're  engaged,  are  you?  And  when  will  the 
wedding  take  place,  —  may  it  be  with  luck ! 

Sarah 

Just  see  with  whom  he's  stopped  to  talk!  It 
really  becomes  him !  With  outcasts,  God  for- 
give my  words.  Reb  Ali  and  the  Scribe  will  be 
here   at   any  moment! 

Shloyme 

When '11  the  wedding  take  place,  you  ask? 
When  does  one  of  our  kind  ever  have  a  wedding  ? 
When  we'll  get  a  couple  of  girls  we'll  get  mar- 
ried and  open  a  house  of  our  own.  What  else 
can  one  of  us  become?  Certainly  not  a  Rabbi. 
But  the  girls  must  be  something  fine,  —  first 
class.  Fiery  and  hot-blooded.  {Winking  to 
Yekel.)     Otherwise  it  doesn't  pay. 

Yekel 

And  what  do  you  want  of  me,  I'd  like  to 
know? 

Shloyme 

What  do  I  want  of  you?  A  mere  trifle. 
(Points  to  Hindel.)  She's  your  woman,  isn't 
she?  And  she's  my  sweetheart.  She  has  a 
claim  upon  you.  (Takes  from  Hindel  her  wage- 
hook.)     From  this  day  on  you'll  have  to  deal 

[19] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

with  me.  Today  I  ask  a  mere  bagatelle.  Ten 
roubles,  on  this  book.  {Slaps  the  hook.)  It's 
good  money,  safe  money.  (Looking  at  Hindel.) 
She  wants  to  buy  herself  a  hat. 

Yekel 
All  that  downstairs.     Down  below.     I'll  be 
down  soon  and  we'll  transact  all  business  down 
there.     Here  I  don't  even  know  you.     Here  I 
do  no  business  with  you  at  all. 

Shloyme 
It's  all  the  same  to  me.     Above  or  below. 
Downstairs   live   no    strangers,     nor    upstairs 
either.    Same  thing.    The  same  devil. 

Yekel 
Get  a  move  on !    Off  with  you !    Do  you  hear  ? 
—  We're  expecting  people! 

Sarah 
May  an  evil  night  descend  upon  their  heads, 
their  hands  and  their  feet.  They  came  here  to 
spoil  our  celebration.  .  .  {Looks  at  Hindel  with 
scorn.)  It  pays  to  have  so  much  vexation  over 
such  a  slut! 

Hindel 
If  I'm  not  good  enough  to  be  one  of  your 
women,  go  down  into  the  cellar  yourself. 

Shloyme,  to  Hindel 
Tell  her  to  send  her  daughter  down  there.   ( To 

[20] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Sarah.)     Upon  my  word,  you'd  do  a  rushing 
business. 

Yekel 

Curse  me,  —  do  you  hear?  {Points  to  Sa- 
rah.) Curse  her,  too.  We're  your  kind.  But 
don't  dare  to  breathe  my  daughter's  name. 
Understand?  {Coming  closer  to  Shloyme.) 
Don't  dare  to  mention  her  name,  or  I'll  rip 
your  bowels  open.  Do  you  hear?  She  doesn't 
know  you,  and  you  don't  know  her! 

Shloyme 

Then  I  will  know  her.  She's  the  daughter  of 
a  fellow-tradesman,  so  we're  quite  closely  re- 
lated. 

Yekel,  seizing  Shloyme  hy  the  throat. 

I'll  rip  your  bowels  open.  .  .  You  may  slap  my 
face;  kick  me  about,  if  you  will,  but  don't  men- 
tion my  daughter 's  name !  ( Yekel  and  Shloyme 
engage  in  a  struggle,) 

Sarah,  running  over  to  them. 

A  curse  has  been  visited  upon  me !  There  he 
goes,  starting  a  fight  with  such  low-lives !  Some- 
body's  liable  to  come  in  at  any  moment,  woe  is 
me.  Yekel !  —  Reb  Ali  and  the  Scribe.  .  .  Yekel, 
for  God's  sake!  {Dragging  him  away  from 
Shloyme.)  What's  come  over  you?  {Heavy 
footsteps  are   heard    outside.)     Yekel,    Yekel! 

[21] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Reb  Ali  is  coming,  —  the  Scribe  is  here !    This 
is  a  shame  and  a  disgrace  before  people! 

Yekel 
Let  me  go.    Right  on  this  spot  I'll.  .  .  {Tight- 
ening his  grasp  upon  Shloyme.) 

Reb  Ali's  Voice 
Right  here,  Scribe.  This  is  the  home  of  the 
Scroll's  donor.  {Reh  Ali  appears  in  the  door- 
way, first  thrusting  in  his  large  head,  with  a 
pipe  between  his  teeth.)  What's  all  the  noise 
about  ?  In  the  home  of  one  who  has  a  Scroll  of 
the  Law  written,  all  must  be  joy  and  happiness. 
Not  quarrelling.  (To  the  Scribe  outside,)  This 
way,  please.  Scribe.  {Yekel,  at  the  sound  of 
Reb  Ali's  voice,  releases  Shloyme.  Sarah  runs 
over  to  Shloyme  and  thrusts  into  his  hand  a 
piece  of  paper  money  which  she  has  taken  from 
her  stocking.  She  shoves  Hindel  and  Shloyme 
toward  the  door;  the  latter  two  encounter  the 
Scribe  and  Reb  Ali  on  the  threshold.  The  pious 
men  stand  back  from  the  woman,  making  way 
for  her  and  Shloyme.) 

Shloyme,  to  Hindel,  as  they  leave. 
Take  a  peek  at  the  folks  he's  hob-nobbing  with 
these  days.    He'll  become  head  of  the  town  be- 
fore long.     {They  go  off,  conversing  in  indistinct 
tones.) 

Reb  Ali,  a  short,  corpulent  fellow,  who  speaks 
[22] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

rapidly,  making  ingratiating  gestures  as  he  does 
so.  He  appears  to  be  much  at  home,  and  evi- 
dently entertains  a  high  opinion  of  himself. 
I  beg  your  pardon,  Scribe;  I  beg  your  pardon. 
{Quietly,  to  Yekel  and  Sarah.)  You  ought  to 
act  more  decently.  It's  high  time.  People  are 
coming  and.  .  . 

The  Scribe,  enters.  A  tall  old  man,  whose  long, 
thin  body  is  enveloped  in  a  broad  overcoat.  His 
beard  is  long,  white  and  sparse.  He  wears  spec- 
tacles and  has  an  air  of  cold  aloofness  and  mys- 
tery. 

Reb  Ali,  pointing  to  Yekel. 
This  is  the  donor  of  the  Scroll. 

The  Scribe,  proffering  his  hand  to  Yekel,  at 
the  same  time  surveying  him. 

Greetings.    Peace  be  to  you,  fellow  Jew. 

Yekel,    Thrusts    out    his    hand,    uncertainly. 
Sarah  reverently  steps  to  one  side. 

Reb  Ali,  takes  a  seat  at  the  table  and  pushes  a 
chair  over  toward  the  Scribe. 
Be  seated.  Scribe.  (To  Yekel.)  Take  a  seat. 
(The  Scribe  sits  down.  Yekel,  still  uncertain, 
sits  doivn  opposite  him,  next  to  Reb  Ali.  The 
latter  addresses  the  Scribe.)  This  is  the  gentle- 
man on  whose  behalf  I  ordered  the  Holy  Scroll. 
{He  helps  himself  to  brandy,  first  pouring  out 
a  glass  for  the  Scribe.)     He  has  no  son,  so  he 

[23] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

desires  to  do  honor  to  the  Lord  with  a  Scroll 
of  the  Law.  Such  is  the  custom  among  the 
people  of  Israel,  —  and  a  very  beautiful  one, 
too.  So  we  must  aid  him.  .  .  Your  health. 
Scribe.  (Gives  his  hand  to  the  Scribe,  then  to 
Yekel.)  Your  health,  host.  Today  you  are  the 
Master  of  Festivities.  {Yekel  stretches  out  his 
hand,  at  a  loss.  Reh  Ali  drinks,  Sarah  ap- 
proaches the  table  and  pushes  toward  Reh  Ali 
some  jelly  preserves.  Yekel  pulls  her  by  the 
sleeve  and  signals  her  to  withdraw  from  the 
table.  Reb  Ali,  after  drinking,  turns  to  the 
Scribe.)  Drink,  Scribe.  (To  Yekel.)  Drink, 
host.  Today  you  must  rejoice.  God  has  favored 
you  with  the  means  of  having  a  Holy  Scroll 
written.  It  is  a  divine  merit  indeed.  A  very 
great  one. 

The  Scribe,  holding  his  glass  in  his  hand,  to 
Reb  Ali,  referring  to  Yekel. 
Who  is  this  man? 

Reb  Ali 
What  is  the  difference  ?  A  Jew.  .  .  And  if  he 
isn  't  a  learned  scholar,  must  all  men  be  scholars  ? 
A  Jew  wants  to  earn  a  divine  blessing.  Then 
we  must  befriend  him.  (To  Yekel.)  Drink  a 
health.     Here's  joy  to  you. 

The  Scribe 
Will  he  know  how  to  take  care  of  the  Holy 
Scroll? 

[24] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Reb  Ali 
And  why  not?  He  is  a  Jew,  isn't  he?  And 
what  Jew  doesn't  know  the  holy  significance  of 
a  Scroll?  (Drinks.)  Your  health,  your  health. 
And  may  the  Lord  send  His  blessings  to  His 
people. 

The  Scribe,  gives  his  hand  to  Yekel. 
Your  health,  host.  (Admonishing  him.)  And 
know,  that  a  Holy  Scroll  is  a  wondrous  posses- 
sion. The  whole  world  rests  upon  a  Scroll  of  the 
Law,  and  every  Scroll  is  the  exact  counterpart 
of  the  tablets  that  were  received  by  Moses  upon 
Mount  Sinai.  Every  line  of  a  Holy  Scroll  is 
penned  in  purity  and  piety.  .  .  Where  dwells  a 
Scroll,  in  such  a  house  dwells  God  himself.  .  .  So 
it  must  be  guarded  against  every  impurity.  .  . 
Man,  you  must  know  that  a  Holy  Scroll.  .  . 

Yekel,  aived;  he  stammers. 
Rebbi,  rebbi*.  .  .  I  want  to  tell  the  Rebbi  the 
whole  truth,  —  the  honest  truth.  .  .  I  am  a  poor 
sinner.  .  .  Rebbi,  I'm  afraid.  .  . 

Reb  Ali,  interrupting  Yekel.    To  the  Scribe. 
The  man  is  a  sincere  penitent  and  it  is  our 
duty  to  befriend  him.    The  Talmud  counsels  us 
to.    Of  course  he  understands  the  significance  of 

*  *Rebbi'  is  a  term  usually  applied  to  teachers  of  Hebrew.  It 
is  often  interchanged  with  the  more  dignified  'Rabbi,' 
which  means,  properly,  a  doctor  of  Hebrew  law.  The 
term  'Reb'  is  a  form  of  address  used  by  Jews  before 
first  names  only.     Cf.  the  Spanish   'Don.' 

[25] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

a  Holy  Scroll.  He's  a  Jew,  after  all.  {To  Yekel.) 
You  must  have  reverence  for  a  Scroll  of 
the  Law.  Great  reverence,  —  precisely  as  if  a 
noted  Eabbi  were  under  your  roof.  In  the  house 
where  it  resides  no  profanity  must  be  uttered. 
It  must  dwell  amidst  purity.  (Speaks  to  Sarah, 
looking  toward  her  hut  not  directly  at  her,) 
Wherever  a  Holy  Scroll  is  sheltered,  there  no 
woman  must  remove  the  wig  from  her  head.  .  . 
(Sarah  thrusts  her  hair  more  securely  under 
her  wig.)  Nor  must  she  touch  the  Scroll  with 
her  bare  hands.  As  a  reward,  no  evil  overtakes 
the  home  that  shelters  a  Scroll.  Such  a  home 
will  always  be  prosperous  and  guarded  against 
all  misfortune.  (To  the  Scribe.)  What  do  you 
imagine?  —  That  he  doesn't  know  all  this? 
They're  Jews,  after  all.  .  .  (Sarah  nods  affirm- 
atively.) 

The  Scribe 
You  hear,  sir,  that  the  whole  world  rests  upon 
the  Scroll.  The  fate  of  our  race  lies  rolled  up 
in  that  parchment.  With  one  word,  —  with  a 
single  word,  God  forbid,  you  can  desecrate  the 
Law  and  bring  down  upon  all  the  Jews  a  griev- 
ous misfortune,  —  God  forbid. 

Yekel,  arising  from  the  table. 

Rebbi,     I'll     confess     everything.   .   .  Rebbi 

(Comes  nearer  to  Reb  Ali.)     I  know  that  you 

are  a  holy  man.     I  am  not  worthy,  Rebbi,  of 

your  presence  in  this  house.  .  .  under  my  roof.  . . 

[26] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Rebbi,  I  am  a  sinner.  She  {Pointing  to  his  wife.) 
is  a  sinner.  We  have  no  right  to  a  Holy  Scroll. . . 
Inside  that  room.  {Pointing  to  the  door  at  the 
right.)  For  her  sake,  Rebbi.  .  .  {Goes  into  Rif- 
hele's  room  and  returns,  leading  her  hy  the 
hand.  She  holds  a  velvet  cover  of  a  Scroll,  upon 
ivhich  she  is  embroidering  a  David's  shield  in 
gold  thread.)  Rebbi,  she  {Pointing  to  Rifkele.) 
may  go  about  a  Holy  Scroll.  She  is  as  pure  as 
the  Lord's  Law  itself.  It  is  for  her  that  I  or- 
dered it.  {Indicating  her  embroidery.)  See, 
Rebbi,  she 's  embroidering  a  cover  for  the  Scroll. 
She  may,  Rebbi,  for  her  hands  are  pure.  I, 
Rebbi,  {Striking  himself  over  the  heart.)  I 
promise  not  to  touch  your  Holy  Law.  She 
{Pointing  to  his  wife.)  will  not  touch  your  Holy 
Scroll.  She  {Resting  his  hand  upon  Rifkele' s 
head.)  will  carry  it.  It  will  be  placed  in  her 
room.  {To  Rifkele.)  And  when  you  are  mar- 
ried and  leave  my  roof,  take  the  Scroll  of  the 
Law  with  you  to  your  husband's  home.  .  . 

Reb  Ali,  to  Yekel. 
In  other  words,   when  you  marry   off  your 
daughter,  you'll  give  her  the  Holy  Scroll  as  her 
dowry.     Isn't  that  it? 

Yekel 

Reb  Ali,  when  my  daughter  is  married,  I'll 

give  her  as  a  dowry  a  pile  of  money,  and  I'll 

say  to  her:  ''Go  out  of  your  father's  house  and 

forget.  .   .  forget  your  father.   .  .  forget  your 

[27] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

mother.  .  .  and  have  pure  children,  Jewish  child- 
ren, just  like  every  Jewish  daughter."  That's 
what  I'll  say  to  her. 

Reb  Ali 
That  is,  you  will  present  the  Holy  Scroll  as 
a  wedding-gift  to  your  son-in-law.  That's  the 
idea,  isn't  it?  {To  the  Scribe.)  Do  you  see, 
Reb  Aaron,  there  are  still  pious  Jews  in  the 
world ;  here 's  a  man  with  a  daughter,  and  has  a 
Scroll  of  the  Law  written  for  her  future  hus- 
band. .  .  How  beautiful  that  is,  —  how  virtuous 
...  I  tell  you,  Reb  Aaron,  that  the  spirit  of  Is- 
rael, the  Jewish  spark.  .  .  the.  .  .  ahem.  .  .  ah !  .  . 
ah!  .  .  .  (Smacking  his  lips.) 

Yekel,  leads  Bifkele  hack  into  her  room.  He 
closes  the  door  after  her. 
Rebbi,  I  can  speak  plainly  to  you.  We're 
alone.  My  wife  may  hear  it,  too.  We  are  sin- 
ners. I  know,  God  will  punish  us.  Let  Him 
punish.  That  doesn't  bother  me.  Let  Him  crip- 
ple me,  disfigure  me ;  let  Him  make  me  a  pauper, 
so  that  I'll  have  to  go  begging  from  door  to 
door.  .  .  Anything  but  that.  .  .  (More  softly.) 
Rebbi,  when  a  man  has  a  son  who  goes  to  the 
bad  —  the  devil  take  him.  But  a  daughter, 
Rebbi.  If  a  daughter  falls,  it  is  as  if  the  mother 
had  sinned  in  her  grave.  So  I  went  to  the  holy 
synagogue  and  approached  this  man  (Pointing 
to  Beh  Ali.)  and  I  said  to  him:  "Give  me  some- 

[28] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

thing  that'll  guard  my  home  from  evil.".  .  .  So 
he  said  to  me :  "  Have  a  Holy  Scroll  written  and 
place  it  in  your  home."  Rebbi,  as  for  us,  our 
souls  belong  to  the  devil  anyway.  .  .  For  her, 
and  in  her  room  I  '11  place  the  Scroll ;  for  her  to 
have  as  a  companion.  As  for  us,  we  dare  not, 
we  must  not.  .  .  (Beb  Ali  bends  over  to  the 
Scribe,  whispers  something  to  him,  making  var- 
ious gestures  and  pointing  to  Yekel.  The  latter 
and  Sarah  stand  at  the  table  in  tense  expectancy. 
Pause.) 

The  Scribe,  after  brief  consideration. 
And  where  are  the  guests  in  honor  of  the 
Holy  Scroll? 

Reb  Ali 

We'll  go  to  the  synagogue  and  gather  a  quo- 
rum* of  Jews.  It  will  be  easy  enough  to  find 
men  who  are  willing  to  honor  the  Law.  (Arises 
from  the  table,  pours  brandy  into  the  glasses, 
slapping  Yekel  on  the  shoulder.)  There,  there! 
God  will  help  you!  Rejoice,  host!  The  Lord 
befriends  the  sincere  penitent.  .  .  Don't  worry. 
You'll  marry  your  girl  to  some  proficient  schol- 
ar; you'll  take  some  poor  Yeshiva**  student  for 
a  son-in-law,  and  support  him  while  he  sits  and 
studies  the  Holy  Law.  And  the  blessings  of  the 
Law    will    win    you    the    Lord's    forgiveness. 

*  'Minyan'.      The    quorum    of    ten    males    above    the    age    of 

thirteen   required    for    all    religious    services. 
**  'Yeshiva'.     An  academy  of  Hebrew  studies. 

[29] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

(Pause.)  I've  really  been  thinking  about  it, 
and  have  a  certain  fellow  in  view,  —  a  jewel  of 
a  chap,  —  smart  head  on  his  shoulders.  .  .  his 
father  is  a  highly  respected  man.  {Abruptly.) 
Are  you  going  to  give  your  daughter  a  large 
dowry? 

Yekel 
Rebbi,  take  away  all  I  own.  I'll  let  you  strip 
me  bare.  .  .  Take  everything,  everything.  .  .  And 
I  '11  say  to  my  girl,  ' '  Forget  your  mother.  .  .  for- 
get your  father."  And  I'll  send  her  and  her 
husband  all  they  need,  in  a  roundabout  way. 
'' Here's  your  food  and  drink,  keep  on  studying 
in  your  holy  books.  .  .  I  don't  know  yoa.  .  .  you 
don't  know  me.  .  ." 

Reb  Ali 
Everything  will  be  all  right,  in  the  virtue  of 
the  Scroll.  .  .  Come,  Scribe.  Come,  host,  let's 
be  off  to  the  synagogue.  We'll  hunt  out  a  quo- 
rum and  celebrate  the  Holy  Scroll.  .  .  {To  the 
Scribe.)  Do  you  see,  Reb  Aaron?  A  Jew,  even 
if  he  sins,  stiU  remains  a  Jew.  A  Jewish  soul 
—  seeks  a  pious  scholar  for  a  son-in-law.  .  . 
{To  Yekel.)  Never  you  mind.  Don't  worry. 
God  will  help  you.  .  .  The  Lord  loves  a  repentant 
sinner.  But  you  must  give  generous  donations 
to  the  students  of  the  Law.  If  you  cannot  study 
the  Law  yourself,  at  least  support  those  who 
can,  for  the  whole  world  rests  upon  the  Holy 
Law.  .  .   {To  the  Scribe.)     Is  that  not  so,  Reb 

[30] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Aaron?  And  why  not?  (Pointing  to  Yekel.) 
I  knew  his  father.  .  .  He  was  a  fine  man.  .  .  a 
teamster.  .  .  handsome  chap.  .  .  Believe  me,  the 
Lord  will  come  to  his  aid,  and  he  will  become  a 
Jew  as  worthy  as  any  other.  (To  Yekel.)  The 
important  thing  is  to  repent  deep  in  your  heart, 
—  that  is,  you  must  abandon  the  path  of  iniquity 
that  you've  followed  hitherto.  .  .  and  you  must 
contribute  liberally  to  the  support  of  the  stu- 
dents of  the  Holy  Word. 

Yekel,  summoning  courage,  he  approaches  Reh 
Ali. 
Just  let  me  make  a  little  more  money,  Reb 
Ali,  so  that  I  can  give  my  daughter  a  handsome 
dowry,  and  my  name  isn't  Yekel  Tchaftchovitch 
if  I  don 't  go  out  of  the  business  altogether. .  I  '11 
deal  in  horses,  just  as  my  father  did,  may  his 
soul  rest  in  peace.  I'll  get  together  a  stable  of 
horses  and  go  to  the  Lovitch  fair.  And  my  son- 
in-law  will  be  sitting  inside  there  studying  the 
sacred  Law.  I'll  come  home  for  the  Sabbath 
and  sit  down  right  here  and  listen  to  him  read- 
ing from  the  Commentaries.  And  if  I  lie,  my 
name  isn't  Yekel. 

Reb  Ali 
Don't  worry.     It's  all  right.     The  Lord  will 
come  to   your  aid.     Yes,    God  will   help   you. 
Isn't  that  so,  Reb  Aaron? 

[31] 


THE   GOD   OF   VENGEANCE 

The  Scribe 

Who  can  tell?  Our  Lord  is  a  God  of  mercy 
and  forgiveness,  but  He  is  also  a  God  of  retri- 
bution and  vengeance.  (Leaving.)  Well,  it's 
getting  late.  Let's  be  off  to  the  synagogue. 
(Leaves,) 

Yekel 
What  did  the  Rebbi  say  ? 

Reb  Ali 

It's  all  right.  Don't  worry.  God  will  help 
you.  .  .  He  must  help  you.  .  .  Come,  come  and 
take  your  Holy  Scroll  home  in  rejoicing.  (Atout 
to  depart.  Yekel  hesitates,  undecided.  Reh  Ali 
notices  this.)  What?  You  want  to  speak  a  few 
words  with  your  wife,  —  to  tell  her  to  prepare 
for  our  return  with  the  Scroll? 

Sarah,  to  Reb  Ali. 
Everything's  ready,  Reb  Ali.     Everything. 

Reb  Ali 

Well,  what  are  you  waiting  for?  The  Scribe 
has  already  gone. 

Yekel,  at  the  door,  uncertain,  pointing  to  him- 
self. 

I,  walk  together  with  the  Rebbi,  through  the 
streets  ? 

[32] 


THE   GOD   OF   VENGEANCE 

Reb  Ali 

Come,  come.    If  the  Lord  pardons  you,  surely 
we  may  do  so,  too. 

Yekel,  enthusiastically. 
Reb  Ali,  you're  a  good  Rebbi.  (About  to  em- 
brace Reb  Ali;  suddenly  recalls  himself  and 
draws  back.)  A  good  Rebbi,  may  I  live  so !  (Reb 
Ali  and  Yekel  leave  together.  The  evening 
shadows  gather.) 

Sarah,  betakes  herself  assiduously  to  cleaning 
the  room  and  setting  the  table.  Calls  into  Rif- 
kele's  room. 
Rifkele,  Rifkele,  come  in  and  help  me  out  a 
bit.  They'll  soon  be  coming  with  the  Holy 
ScroU. 

Rifkele,  appears  on  the  threshold  of  her  door, 
uncertain. 
Has  father  left  already? 

Sarah 
Yes.    He  went  to  the  sjmagogue  with  Reb  All 
and  the  Scribe.    The  Rabbi  will  soon  be  coming, 
and  other  guests,  too. 

RiFKEiiE,  showing  the  cover  for  the  Holy  Scroll. 
See  how  nicely  I've  embroidered  it. 

Sarah 
Yes,  yes.    I  see.    But  comb  your  hair.    Dress 

[33] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

yourself.     The  guests  will  soon  be  here.     The 
Rabbi  and.  .  . 

RiFKELE 

I  '11  call  up  Manke  and  have  her  comb  me.  .  .  I 
love  to  have  her  comb  me.  She  does  it  so  beauti- 
fully. Makes  my  hair  so  smooth.  .  .  And  her 
hands  are  so  cool.  {Takes  something  and  taps 
the  floor  with  it,  calling.)     Manke!  Manke! 

Sarah,  frightened. 
Rifkele!  What  are  you  doing ?  Don't!  Your 
father  will  be  furious!  It  isn't  becoming  for 
you  to  chum  with  Manke.  You're  already  a 
marriageable  young  lady,  a  virtuous  child.  And 
we  've  just  been  talking  about  some  good  matches 
for  you,  —  excellent  matches  with  learned  schol- 
ars. .  . 

Rifkele 
But  I  do  love  Manke  so  much! 

Sarah 
It's  a  shame  for  you  to  chum  with  Manke,  I 
tell  you!  You  are  a  decent  girl;  you'll  have 
clean,  respectable  girls  to  go  around  with.  .  . 
We're  arranging  a  match  for  you,  an  excellent 
match.  Your  father's  just  gone  to  see  the  bride- 
groom, Reb  Ali  said,  .  .  .  (Goes  into  the  next 
room,)  We  must  wash,  dress,  and  put  on  our 
best  clothes.  .  .  The  guests  will  be  here  at  any 
moment. 

[34] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

RiFKELE 

A  bridegroom?     What  kind  of  bridegroom, 
mamma  dear? 

Sarah,  from  the  other  room. 
A  sweetheart,  —  a  golden  one.     A  wonderful 
student,  of  a  fine  family. 

Manke 
Appears  in  the  doorway  at  the  rear.  First 
she  thrusts  in  her  head,  shaking  her  finger  play- 
fully at  Rifkele;  Bifkele  goes  over  to  her,  walk- 
ing cautioicsly  backwards,  beckoning  to  her  as 
she  does  so.    The  room  is  fast  growing  dark. 

Rifkele,    falls    into    Manke' s    arms.     To    her 
mother. 
A     handsome     sweetheart,     mamma     dear? 
{Manke  kisses  her  passionately.) 

Sarah,  from  within. 
Yes,  daughter  dear.    A  handsome  sweetheart, 
with  two  jet-black  temple-locks  and  a  satin  coat, 
and  a  velvet  skull-cap,  dressed  just  like  a  Rabbi. 
He's  a  Rabbi's  son,  Reb  Ali  said. 

Rifkele,  in  Manke' s  embrace,  caressing  Manke' s 
cheeks. 
And  where  will  he  stay,  mamma  dear? 

Sarah,  from  within. 
There  in  your  room,  where  the  Sacred  Scroll 

[35] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

will  be  kept.     He'll  live  there  with  you  and 
study  the  Holy  Law. 

RrPKELE,  in  Manke's  arms. 
And  will  he  love  me,  mamma  dear? 

Sarah,  as  before. 
Ever  so  much,  daughter  dear,  ever  so  much. 
And  you'll  have  pure,  respectable  children,  vir- 
tuous children.  .  . 


SLOW  CURTAIN 
falling  as  they  speak. 


[36] 


ACT  II 


Scene:  In  the  cellar -hrothel.  A  spacious 
hasement  in  an  old  building;  low-arched  ceil- 
ing; high  up  on  the  wall,  close  to  the  ceiling, 
two  deep,  narrow  windows,  hung  with  curtains. 
On  the  sill,  flower-pots.  The  rain  is  coming  in 
through  the  windows.  A  flight  of  stairs  leads  to 
the  door  above,  which  is  constructed  like  that  of 
the  entrance  to  a  cahin  on  board  ship.  Half  of 
the  door  is  ajar,  revealing  the  gloom  of  the 
night.  Rain  drips  down.  In  the  background  of 
the  cellar,  several  small  compartments,  separ- 
ated from  one  another  by  thin  partitions,  and 
screened  by  thick  black  curtains.  One  of  the 
curtains  has  been  drawn  aside;  in  the  compart- 
ment are  seen  a  bed,  a  wash-stand,  a  mirror  and 
various  toilet  articles.  A  colored  night-lamp 
sheds  a  dim  light  over  the  tiny  room.  The  fur- 
niture of  the  cellar  itself  consists  of  several 
lounges,  a  tahle,  benches  and  card-tables;  on  the 
walls,  looking-glasses  bedecked  with  gaudy  orna- 
ments; chromos  representing  women  in  sugges- 
tive poses.  .  . 

On  one  of  the  lounges  sleeps  Shloyme;  his 
long  boots  reach  to  a  nearby  bench.  It  is  a 
night  in  spring. 

The  room  is  lighted  by  a  large  hanging-lamp. 


[38] 


Act  II 

HiNDEL 

Enters.  Halts  for  a  moment  upon  the  top 
stair  and  looks  down  at  Shlayme,  She  is 
wrapped  in  a  thin  shawl,  coquettishly  dressed  in 
a  slcirt  much  too  short  for  her  age.  Descends 
into  the  cellar,  stepping  noisily  so  as  to  wake 
Shloyme. 

Shloyme,  awakes.    Looks  around. 
It's  you,  is  it?    Why  aren't  you  outside? 

HiNDEL 

It's  begun  to  rain. 

Shloyme,  sitting  up. 
So  you  deign  to  answer  me,  milady?     Have 
you,  then,  forgiven  me? 

HiNDEL 

I  wasn't  angry  in  the  first  place. 

Shloyme 
So.  .  .  "Well,  if  you  wish,  you  can  get  angry 
again,  for  all  I  care.     {Lies  down.) 

HiNDEL,  looks  around.    Runs  over  to  one  of  the 
screened  compartments  and  listens,  then  runs 
hack  to  Shloyme. 
Shloyme,   I  don't  want  to  leave  this  place. 

[39] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

See,  now  we're  all  alone  and  nobody  can  hear  us. 
Tell  me,  as  truly  as  there  is  a  God  in  heaven,  — 
tell  me,  do  you  really  mean  to  marry  me  ? 

Shloyme 
Go,  my  grand  dame.  Make  knots  in  your  shirt 
and  hide  your  money  there,  and  then  run  to 
''Uncle"  Yekel  and  complain  that  I  take  all 
your  earnings,  —  that  you  haven't  even  enough 
to  buy  yourself  a  hat.  .  . 

HiNDEL 

Yes,  I  did  tell  him  that.  It  made  me  furious 
and  cut  me  to  the  quick,  —  to  have  you  tear  the 
very  clothes  off  my  back  and  then  go  and  make 
eyes  at  that  yellow  bitch.  .  .  I  '11  dash  vitriol  into 
her  face.  Why,  her  breath  smells  terribly.  How 
can  anybody  get  near  such  a  thing?  A  fine 
young  lady  he's  hunted  out! 

Shloyme 

Away  from  me!  I'll  give  you  such  a  crack 
between  the  eyes  that  you'll  see  your  great- 
great-granny's  ghost! 

HiNDEL 

Crack  away !  Tear  strips  of  skin  off  my  body 
.  .  .  (Pushing  up  one  of  her  sleeves  and  showing 
him  her  arm.)  You've  covered  me  with  black 
and  blue  marks.  {Baring  her  other  arm.)  Here, 
pinch,  slash,  whatever  you  will.  But  tell  me, 
here  on  this  very  spot,  by  the  memory  of  your 

[40] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

father  and  as  truly  as  you  pray  for  the  repose 
of  his  soul,  —  will  you  really  marry  me? 

Shloyme,  still  stretched  out. 
Once  I  wanted  to.     Now  I  don't. 

HiNDEL 

Then  it's  no.  That's  the  way  I  like  to  do 
things.  Only  no  deceit.  Do  you  want  money? 
—  Say  the  word.  A  coat?  —  Here's  the  price. 
Only  no  fooling  me.     (Walks  off.) 

Shloyme 
That's  all  right.     There  are  plenty  of  sweet- 
hearts.   You'll  catch  your  fish,  all  right. 

HiNDEL,  drawing  aside  the  curtain  of  her  com- 
partment. 
Don't  give  yourself  any  worry  on  my  account. 

Shloyme 
You  object,  do  you?     Have    it    your    way. 
(Pause.)     But  you're  not  too  angry  to  pour  a 
fellow  a  glass  of  tea,  are  you? 

Hindel,  fetches  him  a  glass  of  tea  from  her 
compartment  and  places  it  upon  the  cellar  table. 
She  then  returns  to  her  place  and  sits  down  he- 
fore  her  trunk  of  clothes,  as  if  looking  for  some- 
thing. After  a  brief  silence  she  addresses 
Shloyme,  from   her  compartment. 

So  you  like  her,  eh?.  .  .  Well,  well.  .  .  You'll 
soon  be  busy,  all  right,  —  buying  towels  to  pad 

[41] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

out  her  flat  bosom,  paying  dentists  for  putting  a 
set  of  teeth  into  her  jaws,  and  getting  her  a 
pair  of  stilts  to  make  her  look  human  size. 
Then  you  can  hire  a  barrel-organ  and  take  her 
around  people's  backyards.  A  fine  hurdy-gur- 
dyman  you'd  make,  upon  my  word.  I'll  throw 
you  a  two-kopeck-piece  from  the  window,  I 
promise. 

Shlotme 
Hold  your  tongue,  I  tell  you! 

HiNDEL 

And  what '11  you  do  if  I  don't? 

Shloyme 
I'll  beat  you  black  and  blue. 

HiNDEL 

Ho,  ho!    There's  no  beating  folks  these  days. 
Nowadays  a  beating  is  answered  with  a  knife. 

Shloyme,  springing  to  his  feet. 
And  who'll  do  that?  {Striding  into  HindeVs 
compartment.)  Who'll  do  the  knifing,  eh? 
(Ee  struggles  with  her,  tearing  from  her  grasp 
a  red  waist.  He  returns  to  the  cellar.)  Now 
we'll  see.  {He  rips  the  waist  open  eagerly.  A 
photograph  falls  to  the  floor,)  Aha!  Moyshe 
the  locksmith!  So  that's  your  champion,  is  it? 
And  since  when  have  you  become  so  thick  with 
him?     {Goes  hack  to  her  room.) 

[42] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

HiNDEL 

What  business  is  that  of  yours? 

Shloyme 
This  is  what  business  it  is  of  mine!  {He 
gives  her  a  hard  slap;  she  falls  upon  her  bed 
and  begins  to  weep.)  So  you're  going  around 
with  Moyshe  the  locksmith,  are  you?  Exchang- 
ing photographs,  eh?  A  regular  pair  of  sweet- 
hearts! And  all  behind  my  back?  {Silence. 
He  returns  to  his  table.)  And  I  knew  nothing 
about  it.  .  .  {Drinks  more  tea,  arises,  and  mounts 
the  stairs.)  And  I  knew  nothing  about  it.  .  . 
{He  stops  at  the  door.)  Hindel!  {She  does 
not  answer.)  Hindel!  Come  here  this  instant! 
{No  reply.)  Hindel!  {He  stamps  his  foot, 
then  runs  down  the  flight  of  stairs  in  a  rage.) 
Come  here,  I  tell  you !    Do  you  hear  what  I  say ! 

Hindel 
Arises  from  her  bed  and  walks  over  to  him, 
hiding  her  face  in  her  handkerchief. 

Shloyme 
Have  you  spoken  to  Manke? 

Hindel,  whimpering. 
Yes. 

Shloyme 
Well,  what  does  she  say? 

[43] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

HiNDEL,  still  crying. 
If  we'll  have  our  own  "house,"  she'll  come 
to  us. 

Shloyme 
Sure? 

HiNDEL,  drying  her  eyes. 
Yes.     But  she  doesn't  want  to  come  alone. 
She  wants  to  bring  a  chum. 

Shloyme 
Certainly.    Do  you  imagine  you  can  make  any 
money  on  one  girl,  —  even  enough  to  pay  the 
rent? 

HiNDEL 

We  ought  to  have  a  fresh  young  girl.  .  . 

Shloyme 
Upon  my  soul !    Then  we  'd  do  business !    But 
where  can  we  get  her? 

HiNDEL 

I've  got  my  eye  on  one  —  as  beautiful  as  the 
day,*  and  still  untouched. 

Shloyme,  curious. 
Can  we  get  her  for  the  business? 

HiNDEL 

I  should  say!  .  .  . 

*  Literally    'as  beautiful  as  a  tree.' 

[44J 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Shloyme 
A  girl.  .  .  from  a  ''house"? 

HiNDEL 

No.     A  pure  maiden. 

Shloyme 
How  do  you  come  to  know  her? 

HiNDEL 

She  comes  to  Manke  every  night.  .  .  Steals  out 
of  her  home.  .  .  Nobody  sees  her.  Something 
seems  to  draw  her  here.  .  .  she  is  so  inquisitive.  .  . 

RiFKELE,  thrusting  her  tare  head  through  the 
window,  Reckoning  to  Hindel. 
Ps-s-s !    Is  my  father  down  there  ? 

HiNDEL,  signalling  hack. 
No. 

RiFKELE,  disappears  from  the  window. 

Shloyme,  eyeing  Hindel  closely. 
She  !    ' '  Uncle ' '  Yekel  's  daughter !    A  genuine 
gold-mine ! 

Hindel 

Hush  !     She 's  coming ! 

RiFKELE,  slender  and  heautifid;  dressed  mod- 
estly, and  wrapped  in  a  Mack  shawl;  steals 
through  the  door,  runs  down  the  stairs  with 
tremhling  caution.  She  speaks  more  with  signs 
than  with  words. 

[45] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Where  is  Manke?  There?  {Pointing  to  a 
screened  compartment.)     There,  with.  .  .   t 

HiNDEL 

Nods  ''yes.'' 

ElFKELE 

Approaches  the  curtain  of  Manke' s  room  and 
listens  with  passionate  intentness,  looking 
around  every  other  moment  with  palpitant  ap- 
prehension. 

Shloyme,  very  softly,  to  Eindel. 
Tomorrow  we  must  go  and  take  a  look  at  that 
house   on  Pivna   Street. 

HiNDEL 

And  when  shall  we  be  married? 

Shloyme 
First  we've  got  to  have  a  home. 

HiNDEL 

I  wonder  how  much  the  Rabbi  will  ask  for 
performing  the  ceremony. 

Shloyme 
As  long  as  there's  enough  left  to  buy  some 
furniture  with.    The  place  must  make  a  decent 
showing.     (The  door  is  suddenly  hanged  open 
and  Yekel  hursts  in.) 

Yekel,  his  face  still  hetrays  signs  of  his  cun- 
ning and  of  his  youthful  dissipation.     He  is 

[46] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

dressed   in   dignified,    orthodox    fashion.     Re- 
moves his  hat  and  shakes  the  rain  from  it. 

A  fine  business!  It  has  to  rain!  (Suddenly 
noticing  Rifkele,  he  explodes  with  rage.)  What! 
You  here !  (Seizes  her  hy  the  collar  and  shakes 
her,  clinching  his  teeth.)  What  are  you  doing 
here? 

Rifkele,  terrified,  stammering. 
Mam.  .  .  Mamma  told  me.  .  .  to.  .  .  c-eall.  .  . 
(Bursting  into  tears.)     Papa,  don't  hit  me! 

Yekel 
Your  mother.  .  .  your  mother  sent  you.  .  . 
here!  (With  a  loud  outcry.)  Your  mother! 
(Dragging  her  upstairs.)  She'll  lead  you  to 
ruin  yet !  Something  draws  her  to  it !  .  .  .  She 
wants  her  daughter  to  be  what  the  mother 
was.  .  . 

Rifkele,  crying. 
Papa,  don't  hit  me! 

Yekel 
I'll  teach  you  to  mind  your  father!     (Leads 
her  out.     EifkeWs  crying  is  heard  from  with- 
out.) 

Shloyme 

There's  a  virtuous  Yekel  for  you!    It  doesn't 

become  his  dignity  for  his  daughter  to  be   a 

brothel- woman.     (Through  the  ceiling  is  heard  a 

noise  of  angry  stamping,  and  the  weeping  of  a 

[47] 


THE   GOD   OF   VENGEANCE 

woman.)     He  must  be  giving  it  to  his  wife  now, 
all  right!    Biff!     Bang! 

HiNDEL 

He^s  right.  A  mother  should  guard  her 
daughter  well.  .  .  Whatever  you  were,  you  were, 
but  once  you  marry  and  have  a  child,  watch  over 
it.  .  .  Just  wait.  If  God  should  bless  us  with 
children,  I'll  know  how  to  bring  them  up.  My 
daughter  will  be  as  pure  as  a  saint,  with  cheeks 
as  red  as  beets.  .  .  I  won't  let  an  eye  gaze  upon 
her.  And  she'll  marry  a  respectable  fellow, 
with  an  orthodox  wedding.  .  . 

Shloyme,  slapping  her  across  the  shoulders. 
We'll  see  about  that,  all  in  due  season.    But 
talk  to  Rifkele  in  the  meantime.     Work  upon 
her,  I  say.     Othei'wise  everything's  lost. 

HiNDEL 

Don't  you  worry  about  my  part.  I'll  know 
how  to  go  about  it. 

Shloyme 
We'll  see,  then.     (Silence.)     If  you  land  her, 
bring  her  right  to  me.     You  know.  .  . 

Yekel,  enters,  in  anger. 
It's  time  to  close  up.  It's  raining.  In  any 
case  no  dog's  going  to  stick  his  snout  into  this 
place  tonight.  (With  a  sharp  look  at  Shloyme.) 
Enough,  enough  of  this  billing  and  cooing. 
Time  to  close  up.     (Mounts  the  steps,  opens  the 

[48] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

door  and  calls.)  Reizel!  To  bed!  Basha! 
Time  to  go  to  sleep !  {From  without  are  heard 
girls'  voices:   ^^Soon.    Right  away!'') 

HiNDEL 

Points  to  Yekel  and  signals  Shloyme  to  leave. 

Shloyme 
Goes  up  the  steps.    As  he  is  about  to  go  out  he 
comes  face  to  face  with  Yekel.    They  eye  each 
other. 

Yekel 
Get  a  move  on.     Time  to  close  up.     You've 
whispered  secrets  long  enough. 

Shloyme,  thrusting  his  hands  into  his  trousers 
pocket.    Looks  sharply  at  Yekel. 
Since  when  have  you  become  such  a  respect- 
able personage? 

Yekel 
Off  with  you,  now.    Get  a  move  on.    I'll  tell 
you  later. 

Shloyme 
To  the  devil  with  you! 

Hestdel,  runs  up  the  stairs  to  Shloyme. 
Shloyme,  go  home,  I  tell  you.    Do  you  hear? 
Go  home! 

Shloyme,  leaving,  with    a    defiant    glance    at 
Yekel. 
There's  a  fine  lout  for  you! 

[49] 


THE   GOD   OF   VENGEANCE 

Yekel 
As  if  I  need  him  here !  .  .  .  (Pointing  to  Hin- 
del.)     Here!     You  may  take  your  old  carcass 
along  with  you  and  start  a  place  of  your  own. 

HiNDEL 

People  don't  open  places  with  old  carcasses. 
You  merely  lie  down  to  rest  with  them.  But 
little  dolls.  .  . 

Yekel,  calling  into  the  entry. 
Reizel!  Basha!  {Enter  two  girls,  running. 
Rain  is  dripping  from  their  wet,  filmy  dresses 
and  from  their  unbr aided  hair.  They  are  in  a 
merry  mood  and  speak  with  laughter.  Yekel 
leaves,  slamming  the  door  behind  him.) 

Basha,  a  stout  girl,  with  red  cheeks.    Naive  in 
manner;  she  speaks  with  a  harsh  accent. 

What  a  sweet  odor  the  rain  has!  .  .  .  {Shak- 
ing raindrops  off  her  clothes.)  Just  like  the 
apples  at  home  drying,  in  the  lofts.  This  is  the 
first  May  rain. 

HiNDEL 

Such  a  crazy  idea:  to  stand  in  the  rain.  As 
if  they'll  attract  the  whole  world.  .  .  Nobody 'd 
ever  show  up  in  a  downpour  like  this.  .  .  ( Goes 
into  her  compartment  and  sits  down  near  her 
trunk,  packing  various  articles.) 

Reizel,  shaking  off  raindrops. 
To  the  deuce  with  the  whole  lot  of  them.     I 

[50] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

paid  my  account  the  day  before  yesterday.  .  . 
We  were  standing  under  the  eaves,  the  rain  is 
so  fragrant, .  .  It  washes  the  whole  winter  off 
your  head.  ( Goes  over  to  Hindel. )  Just  look. . . 
{Showing  her  wet  hair.)  How  fresh  it  is.  .  . 
how  sweet  it  smells.  .  . 

Basha 

At  home,  in  my  village,  the  first  sorrel  must 
be  sprouting.  Yes,  at  the  first  May  rain  they 
cook  sorrel  soup.  .  .  And  the  goats  must  be  graz- 
ing in  the  meadows.  .  .  And  the  rafts  must  be 
floating  on  the  stream.  .  .  And  Franek  is  getting 
the  Gentile  girls  together,  and  dancing  with 
them  at  the  inn.  .  .  And  the  women  must  surely 
be  baking  cheese-cakes  for  the  Feast  of  Weeks.* 
(Silence.)  Do  you  know  what?  I'm  going  to 
buy  myself  a  new  summer  tippet  and  go  home 
for  the  holidays.  .  .  {Buns  into  her  room,  brings 
out  a  large  summer  hat  and  a  long  veil;  she 
places  the  hat  upon  her  wet  hair  and  surveys 
herself  in  the  looking-glass.)  Just  see!  If  I'd 
ever  come  home  for  the  holidays  rigged  up  in 
this  style,  and  promenade  down  to  the  station.  .  . 
Goodness!  They'd  just  burst  with  envy. 
Wouldn  't  they  ?  If  only  I  weren  't  afraid  of  my 
father ! 

Reizel 
Why?     Would  he  hurt  you? 

*  Pentecost. 

[51] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Basha 
He'd  kill  me  on  the  spot.  He's  on  the  hunt 
for  me  with  a  crowbar.  Once  he  caught  me 
dancing  with  Franek  at  the  village  tavern  and 
he  gave  me  such  a  rap  over  the  arm  with  a  rod 
{Showing  her  arm.)  that  I  carry  the  mark  to 
this  very  day.  I  come  from  a  fine  family.  My 
father  is  a  butcher.  Talk  about  the  fellows  that 
were  after  me !  .  .  .  {In  a  low  voice.)  They  tried 
to  make  a  match  between  me  and  Nottke  the 
meat-chopper.  I've  got  his  gold  ring  still. 
{Indicating  a  ring  upon  her  finger.)  He  gave 
it  to  me  at  the  Feast  of  Tabernacles.*  Maybe 
he  wasn't  wild  to  marry  me,  —  but  I  didn't 
care  to. 

Reizel 
Why  didn't  you  care  to? 

Basha 
Because  I  didn't.  .  .     He  always  smelled  ox 
meat.  .  .  Ugh !    His  name  is  Pshorik.     Think  of 
marrying  Pshorik  and  having  a  little  Pshorik 
every  year!    Ugh! 

Reizel 
And  how  is  it  any  better  for  you  here? 

Basha 
Here,  at  least,  I'm  a  free  person.     I've  got 
my   chest   of  finery,   and   dress   swell.     Better 
clothes,  upon  my  word,  than  the  rich  daughters 

*  Succoth. 

[62] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

of  my  village.  .  .  {Fetching  from  her  compart- 
ment a  hrown  dress.)  When  I  go  walking  on 
Marshalkovski  street  in  this  dress  they  all  stare 
at  me.  .  .  Fire  and  flame  !  Mm !  If  I  could  only 
put  in  an  appearance  in  my  home  town  dressed 
in  this  fashion,  here 's  how  I  'd  promenade  to  the 
station.  {Struts  across  the  room  like  a  lady  of 
fashion^  raising  her  skirt  at  the  hack  and  as- 
suming a  cosmopolitan  air.)  They'd  die  of 
jealousy,  I  tell  you.  .  .  They'd  be  stricken  with 
apoplexy  on  the  spot.  {Promenades  about  the 
room  playing  the  grand  dame.) 

Eeizel,  straightens  the  folds  of  Bashaws  dress  in 
the  hack  and  adjusts  her  hat  to  a  better  angle. 
That's  the  way!  Now  raise  your  head  a  bit 
higher.  .  .  Who  needs  to  know  that  you  were 
ever  in  a  place  of  this  sort?  You'll  tell  them 
that  you  were  with  a  big  business  house.  A 
Count  has  fallen  in  love  with  you.  .  . 

HiNDEL,  from  her  room,  where  she  is  still  busy 
with  her  chest  of  clothes. 
And  what's  the  matter  with  a  place  of  this 
sort,  I'd  like  to  know?  Aren't  we  every  bit  as 
good  as  the  girls  in  the  business  houses,  eh? 
The  whole  world  is  like  that  nowadays;  that's 
what  the  world  demands.  In  these  days  even 
the  daughters  of  the  best  families  aren't  any 
better.  This  is  our  way  of  earning  a  living. 
And  believe  me,  when  one  of  us  gets  married, 

[53] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

she's  more  faithful  to  her  husband  than  any  of 
the  others.    We  know  what  a  man  is. 

Basha,  still  strutting  about  the  room. 
Ah !  Do  you  imagine  they  wouldn  't  recognize 
me  right  away  ?  Their  hearts  would  tell  them. . . 
You  know,  my  mother  died  from  the  shock.  .  . 
She  couldn't  live  through  it.  .  .  To  this  day  I 
haven't  visited  her  grave.  .  .  {Suddenly  comes 
to  a  halt.)  Sometimes  she  comes  before  me.  .  . 
At  night  I  see  her  in  my  dreams.  She  appears 
to  me  in  her  shroud,  covered  with  thorns  and 
briers,  because  of  my  sins.  And  she  pulls  me 
by  the  hair. 

Reizel 
Oh,  mother!     And  did  you  really  see  her? 
How  does  she  look,  your  dead  mother?     Is  she 
pale? 

HiNDEL 

Shut  up,  will  you?  Late  at  night  they  have 
to  start  telling  stories  about  the  dead.  No  dead 
people  can  come  here.  Our  boss  has  a  Holy 
Scroll  upstairs.  .  .  {A  sudden  hush.)  What's 
wrong  about  our  trade,  I'd  like  to  know?  {She 
leaves  her  little  room  and  goes  into  the  cellar.) 
Wasn't  our  mistress  in  a  house  like  this  for  fif- 
teen years?  Yet  she  married.  And  isn't  she  a 
respectable  God-fearing  woman  ?  .  .  .  Doesn  't  she 
observe  all  the  laws  that  a  Jewish  daughter 
must  keep?  .  .  .  And  isn't  her  Rifkele  a  pure 
child?    And  isn't  our  boss  a  respectable  man? 

[54] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Isn't  he  generous?  Doesn't  he  give  the  biggest 
donations  to  charity?  .  .  .  And  he's  had  a  Holy 
Scroll  written.  .  . 

Reizel 
But  they  say  that  you  mustn't  read  from 
such  a  Holy  Scroll,  and  that  the  daughter  of 
such  mothers  become  what  the  mothers  them- 
selves were.  .  .  that  something  draws  them  on 
like  a  magnet,  and  that  the  Evil  Spirit  drags 
them  down  into  the  mire.  .  . 

HiNDEL,  frightened. 
Who  said  so? 

Reizel 
An  old  fortune-teller,  —  a  sorceress  told  it  to 
me.  .  .  it's  just  as  if  such  a  daughter  were  in 
the  power  of  an  enchantment.  .  . 

HiNDEL 

That 's  a  rotten  lie !  .  .  .  Where 's  the  old  gypsy 
who  told  you  that  ?  .  .  .  I  'd  scratch  her  eyes  out 
for  her !  There  is  a  God  in  heaven,  I  say !  We 
have  a  God  in  Heaven! 

Manke,  steals  from  her  compartment  into  the 
cellar.  She  is  half-dressed,  with  a  shawl  thrown 
over  her.  Her  colored  stockings  are  visible,  and 
her  hair  is  in  disorder.  Her  eyes  sparkle  with 
wanton  cunning.  Her  face  is  long,  and  inso- 
lently pretty;  she  is  quite  young.  A  lock  of  hair 
falls  over  her  forehead.    Her  eyes  hlink  as  she 

[55] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

speaks,  and  her  whole  body  quivers.    She  looks 
about  in  surprise. 
What?    Nobody  here? 

Reizel,  to  Manke, 
Is  it  you,  Manke?     A  good  thing  you  came. 
{Pointing   to  Hindel.)      She's   almost  made   a 
Rabbi's  wife  of  me.    Where  have  you  left  your 
guest? 

Manke 
He  fell  asleep.    So  I  stole  out. 

Reizel 
Some  generous  land-owner,  perhaps?    Maybe 
he'll  stand  for  the  drinks? 

Manke 
Bah!  He's  a  fool.  Third  time  he's  come. 
And  he  keeps  asking  me,  who's  my  father,  who's 
my  mother,  —  as  if  he  intended  to  marry  me.  .  . 
Whenever  he  kisses  me  he  hides  his  face  in  my 
bosom,  closes  his  eyes  and  smiles  as  if  he  were  a 
babe  in  his  mother's  arms.  {Looks  around.  In 
a  low  voice,  to  Hindel.)  Hasn't  Rifkele  been 
here  yet? 

Hindel,  with  a  soft  laugh. 
She  was  here.  .  .  and  her  father  caught  her.  .  . 
and  maybe  he  didn't  raise  a  rumpus.  .  . 

Manke 
Good  heavens!     How  long  since? 

[56] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

HiNDEL 

Quite  a  while  ago.  .  .  He  must  be  asleep  by 
now.  {Softly.)  She'll  surely  be  down  again 
soon. 

Reizel,  to  Manke,  in  a  merry  mood. 
Come,  Manke,  let's  go  out  into  the  street.    It's 
raining.     The  drops  are  like  pearls.  .  .  The  first 
May  shower.     Who's  coming  out  with  me  for  a 
rain   bath? 

Manke,  approaching  the  window. 
It's  raining.    And  what  a  thin  drizzle.    And 
how  sweet  it  smells.  .  .  Let's  go  out. 

Basha 
At  home  when  we  have  a  shower  like  this  the 
gutters  run  over  and  flood  the  narrow  lanes. 
And  we  take  off  our  shoes  and  stockings  and 
dance  in  the  rain  barefoot.  .  .  Who's  going  to 
take  her  shoes  off?  {Removes  her  shoes  and 
stockings.)  Take  off  your  shoes,  Manke,  and 
let's  dance  in  the  rain! 

Manke,  removes  her  stockings  and  lets  down 
her  hair. 
There  !    Now  let  the  rain  soak  us  from  head  to 
foot.  .  .  Standing  in  a  May  shower  makes  you 
grow.    Isn't  that  so? 

Basha,  runs  over. 
Come.    Let's  splash  each  other.  .  .  Let's  sprin- 
kle handfuls  of  raindrops  over  each  other.     {She 

[57] 


THE   GOD    OF   VENGEANCE 

lets  down  her  hair.)  Let's  drench  our  hair  just 
like  the  trees.  .  .  Come! 

HiNDEL 

Wait.  Wait.  ''Uncle"  isn't  asleep  yet.  He 
might  hear  us.  {All  listen,  their  ears  directed 
to  the  ceiling.) 

Eeizel 
Come  along !    Can 't  you  hear  him  snoring  ? 

Manke 

Wait.  .  .  We'll  tap  softly  for  Rifkele.  {Basha 
and  Beizel  go  out.  .  Manke  takes  a  stick  and  taps 
in  a  corner  of  the  ceiling,  very  softly.  From 
outside  comes  the  noise  of  the  girls  skipping 
about  in  the  water.  They  take  handfuls  of 
raindrops  and  throw  them  in  through  the  open 
door,  calling  ^*Come  out!    Come  out!") 

Rifkele,  thrusts  her  head  through  the  window. 
She  is  in  her  night  clothes,  covered  by  a  light 
shawl.     She  whispers  cautiously. 

Manke,  Manke.    Did  you  call  me  ? 

Manke,  takes  a  chair  and  places  it  under  the 
window;  stands  upon  it  and  reaches  to  Bifkele's 
hand.  :     ai 

Yes,  Rifkele.  I  called  you.  .  .  Come,  we'll 
stand  in  the  May  rain,  splash  water  over  each 
other  and  grow  taller.  .  . 

[58] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

RiFKELE,  from  above. 
Hush !    Speak  more  softly.    I  stole  out  of  bed. 
So  that  pa  wouldn't  hear.     I'm  afraid,  —  that 
he'll  beat  me. 

IVIanke 
Don't  be  afraid  of  your  father.  He  won't 
wake  up  so  soon.  Come,  let's  rather  stand  in 
the  rain.  I'll  let  your  hair  down.  {She  undoes 
Rifkele's  braids,  reaching  through  the  window 
to  do  so.)  There.  And  now  I'll  wash  them  for 
you  in  the  rain.     Just  like  this. 

RiFKELE 

I  have  only  a  nightgown  on.  All  night  I  lay 
in  bed  waiting  for  my  father  to  fall  asleep,  so 
that  I  might  steal  out  to  you.  I  heard  your 
tapping  and  sneaked  away.  So  softly,  barefoot, 
—  so  that  my  father  shouldn't  hear  me. 

Maxke,  embraces  her  passianately. 
Come,   Rifkele,   I'll  wash  your   eyes   in   the 
rainwater.     The  night  is  so  beautiful,  the  rain 
is  so  warm  and  the  air  is  so  full  of  delightful 
fragrance.    Come. 

RiFKETjE 

Hush.  .  .  hush.  .  .  I  'm  afraid  of  my  father.  .  - 
He  beat  me.  .  .  He  locked  the  door.  .  .  And  hid 
the  key  near  the  Holy  Scroll.  I  lay  awake  all 
night.  .  .  I  heard  you  call  me.  .  .  You  called  me 
so  softly.  .  .  And  something  drew  me  so  irresist- 
ibly to  you.  .   .  and  I  stole  the  key  from  the 

[59] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Scroll.  .  .  My  heart  pounded  so  wildly.  .  .  so 
wildly.  .  . 

Manke 
Wait,  Rifkele,  I'm  coming  right  out  to  you. 
{Jumps  down  from  the  chair  and  runs  up  the 
stairs. )  I  'm  coming  out  to  you.  Just  a  moment 
and  I'm  with  you.  {She  leaves.  Rifkele  disap- 
pears from  the  window.) 

HiNDEL,  from  the  curtain  of  her  compartment 
she  has  been  listening  very  intently  to  the  con- 
versation between  Manke  and  Rifkele.  She  now 
begins  to  pace  up  and  down  the  cellar  excitedly, 
wrapt  in  thought  and  muttering  to  herself 
very  slowly. 

With  God's  help,  if  I  can  only  get  both  of 
them,  Rifkele  and  Manke,  this  very  night.  .  .  I  '11 
take  them  directly  to  Shloyme  's.  .  .  And  I  '11  say 
to  him,  "Here  you  are.  .  .  Here's  your  bread 
and  butter.  Now  rent  a  place,  marry  me,  and 
become  a  respectable  man  as  well  as  any  other. ' ' 
{Stops  abruptly.  Raises  her  hands  toward  the 
ceiling.)  Father  in  Heaven,  you  are  a  Father 
to  all  orphans.  .  .  Mother  in  your  grave,  pray  for 
me.  .  .  Let  my  troubles  come  to  an  end.  Let  me 
at  last  be  settled  in  my  own  home !  .  .  .  {Pause.) 
If  God  is  only  good  to  me,  I'll  have  a  Holy 
Parchment  written  in  His  honor.  .  .  And  every 
Sabbath  I'll  give  three  pounds  of  candles  to 
the  House  of  Study.  {A  long  pause.  She  is 
lost  in  the  contemplation  of  her  future  pros- 

[60] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

pects,)  Yes,  he  is  a  good  God.  .  .  a  good  God.  .  . 
Father  in  Heaven.  .  .  Mother,  pray  in  my  be- 
half. .  .  don't  be  silent.  .  .  pray  for  me.  .  .  do 
your  very  best  for  me.  .  .  (She  returns  to  her 
compartment  and  begins  hastily  to  pack  her 
things.)  I  can  be  ready,  anyway.  {A  long 
pause.  The  stage  is  empty.  Soon  Manke  leads 
in  Rifkele.  They  are  both  wrapped  in  the  same 
wet  shawl.  .  .  Their  hair  is  dripping  wet.  Large 
drops  of  water  fall  from  their  clothes  to  the 
floor.  They  are  barefoot.  .  .  Hindel,  behind  her 
curtain,  listens  as  before.) 

Manke,  speaks  with  restrained  passion  and  love, 
—  softly,  but  with  deep  resonance. 

Are  you  cold,  Rifkele  darling?  Nestle  close  to 
me.  .  .  Ever  so  close.  .  .  Warm  yourself  next  to 
me.  So.  Come,  let's  sit  down  here  on  the 
lounge.  (Leads  Rifkele  to  a  lounge;  they  sit 
down.)  Just  like  this.  .  .  Now  rest  your  face 
snugly  in  my  bosom.  So.  Just  like  that.  And 
let  your  body  touch  mine.  .  .  It's  so  cool.  .  .  as  if 
water  were  running  between  us.  (Pause.)  I 
uncovered  your  breasts  and  washed  them  with 
the  rainwater  that  trickled  down  my  arms. 
Your  breasts  are  so  white  and  soft.  And  the 
blood  in  them  cools  under  the  touch,  just  like 
white  snow,  —  like  frozen  water.  .  .  and  their 
fragrance  is  like  the  grass  on  the  meadows. 
And  I  let  down  your  hair  so.  .  .  (Buns  her  fin- 
gers through  RifkeWs  hair.)  And  I  held  them 
like  this  in  the  rain  and  washed  them.     How 

[61] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

sweet  they  smell.  .  .  Like  the  rain  itself.  ..  {She 
huries  her  face  in  Rifkele's  hair.)  Yes,  I  can 
smell  the  scent  of  the  May  rain  in  them.  .  .  So 
light,  so  fine.  .  .  And  fresh.  .  .  as  the  grass  on 
the  meadows.  .  .  as  the  apple  on  the  bough.  .  .  So. 
Cool  me,  refresh  me  with  your  tresses.  {She 
washes  her  face  in  Rifkele^s  hair.)  Cool  me,  — 
so.  But  wait.  .  .  I'll  comb  you  as  if  you  were  a 
bride.  .  .  a  nice  part  and  two  long,  black  braids. 
{Does  so.)  Do  you  want  me  to,  Rifkele?  Do 
you? 

Yes. 


Rifkele,  nodding. 


Manke 
You'll  be  the  bride.  .  .  a  beautiful  bride.  . .  It's 
Sabbath  eve  and  you  are  sitting  with  your  papa 
and  mamma  at  the  table.  .  .  I  —  I  am  your 
sweetheart.  .  .  your  bridegroom,  and  I've  come 
as  your  guest.  Eh,  Rifkele?  Do  you  like  that 
game? 

Yes,  I  do. 


Rifkele,  nodding. 


Manke 
"Wait,  now;  wait.     Your  father  and  mother 
have  gone  to  sleep.    The  sweethearts  meet  here 
at  the  table.  .  .  We  are  bashful.  .  .  Eh  ? 

Rifkele,  nodding. 
Yes,  Manke. 

[62] 


THE   GOD    OF   VENGEANCE 

Manke 
Then  we  come  closer  to  one  another,  for  we 
are  bride  and  bridegroom,  you  and  I.  We  em- 
brace. {Places  her  arm  around  Bifkele.)  Ever 
so  tightly.  And  kiss,  very  softly.  Like  this. 
(Kisses  Rifkele.)  And  we  turn  so  red,  —  we're 
so  bashful.     It's  nice,  Rifkele,  isn't  it? 

Rifkele 
Yes,  Manke.  .  .  Yes. 

Manke,  lowering  her  voice,  and  whispering  into 
Bifkele' s  ear. 
And  then  we  go  to  sleep  together.  Nobody 
sees,  nobody  hears.  Only  you  and  I.  Like  this. 
(Clasps  Bifkele  tightly  to  herself.)  Do  you 
want  to  sleep  with  me  tonight  like  this?    Eh? 

Rifkele,  looking  al)out  nervously, 
I  do.  .  .  I  do.  .  . 

Manke,  drawing  Bifkele  closer. 
Come.  .  .  Come.  .  . 

Rifkele,  softly. 
I  'm  afraid  of  my  father.    He  '11  wake  up  and.  . 

Manke 
Wait,  Rifkele,  wait  a  second.  (Befiects  for  a 
moment.)  Do  you  want  to  go  away  from  here 
with  me?  We'll  be  together  days  and  nights  at 
a  time.  Your  father  won't  be  there,  nor  your 
mother.  .  .  Nobody  '11  scold  you.  .  .  or  beat  you.  .  . 

[63] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

We'll  be  all  by  ourselves.  .  .  For  days  at  a 
time. . .  We'll  be  so  happy.  What  do  you  say, 
Rifkele? 

RiFKELE,  closing  her  eyes. 
And  my  father  won't  know? 

Manke 
No.  We'll  run  away  this  very  night,  —  with 
Hindel,  to  her  house.  .  .  She  has  a  house  with 
Shloyme,  she  told  me.  You'll  see  how  nice 
everything  will  be.  .  .  Young  folks  will  be  there 
aplenty,  —  army  officers.  .  .  and  we'll  be  to- 
gether, all  by  ourselves,  all  day  long.  We'll 
dress  just  like  the  officers  and  go  horseback-rid- 
ing.   Come,  Rifkele,  —  do  you  want  to  ? 

Rifkele,  tremhling  with  excitement. 
And  papa  won't  hear? 

Manke 
No,  no.  He  won't  hear.  He's  sleeping  so 
soundly.  .  .  There,  can't  you  hear  him  snoring? 
.  .  .  (Runs  over  to  HindeUs  compartment  and 
seizes  Hindel  hy  the  arm.)  Have  you  got  a 
place  ?    Come  !    Take  us  away  at  once ! 

Hindel,  waking  tvith  a  start. 
Yes,  yes.     To  Shloyme 's,  right  away!     {She 
throws  a  dress  over  Rifkele.)     He'll  find  us  a 
place  quickly  enough. 

Manke,  hastily  dressing  Rifkele. 
You'll  see  how  nice  everything '11  be.  .  .  What 

[64] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

a  jolly  time  we'll  have.  (All  dress,  seizing  what- 
ever they  happen  to  lay  hands  upon.  Slowly 
they  ascend  the  steps.  At  the  door  they  encoun- 
ter Reizel  ayid  Basha  who,  drenched  to  the  skin, 
are  just  returning  to  the  cellar.  Beizel  and 
Basha  look  at  the  others  in  surprise.) 

Eeizel  and  Basha,   together. 
What's  this?    Where  are  you  going? 

Manke 
Hush!     Don't  make  any  noise.    We're  going 
for  some  beer,  —  and  lemonade.  ,  .     {Hindel, 
Manke    and    Rifkele    leave,    followed    by    the 
amazed  glances  of  Reizel  and  Basha.) 

Reizel 
There's  something  suspicious  about  this  that 
I  don't  like. 

Basha 
Same  here. 

Reizel 
Something's  up.  .  .  Good  heavens! 

Basha,  stares  at  Reizel  in  fright. 
What?    You  mean  thatf 

Reizel 

It's  none  of  our  business.     Let's  put  out  the 

lamp  and  go  to  sleep.    We  know  nothing  about 

it.     (Turns  down  the  wick  of  the  lamp.     The 

stage  is  bathed  in  gloom.    The  girls  go  to  their 

[65] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

respective  compartments.)  That  fortune-teller 
was  certainly  right,  I  tell  you.  She  certainly 
was  right!  .  .  .  {She  disappears.  For  a  mo- 
ment the  stage  is  empty  and  in  darkness.) 

Basha,  comes  running  ivildly  from  her  room, 
with  a  hysterical  outcry.    She  is  in  night  clothes. 

Reizel,  thrusting  aside  the  curtain  of  her  com- 
partment. 
What's  the  matter,  Basha? 

Basha 

I'm  afraid  to  go  to  sleep.  I  feel  that  the 
ghost  of  my  mother,  with  her  thorns  and  her 
briers,  is  hovering  about  my  room. 

Reizel 
The  Holy  Scroll  in  the  room  above  has  been 
defiled.    We  have  no  one  to  shield  us  now! 

Basha 
I'm  afraid  this  is  going  to  be  a  terrible  night. 
My  heart's  thumping.  {Suddenly,  from  above, 
a  din  is  heard.  There  is  a  scraping  of  chairs 
and  tahles.  The  girls,  eyes  distended  with  fear, 
listen  intently.  Soon  there  is  the  sound  of  some- 
thing heavy  falling  ^own  the  outside  stairs.) 

Yekel,  outside. 
Rifkele,  Rifkele  !     Where  are  you  ? 

Reizel,  to  Basha. 
Let's  lie  down  in  our  beds  and  pretend  we're 

[66] 


THE   GOD   OF   VENGEANCE 

fast  asleep.  .  .  We  know  nothing  at  all,  remem- 
ber! {Both  go  to  their  heds  and  feign  deep 
sleep.) 

Yekel,  rushes  into  the  cellar^  a  burning  candle 
in  his  hand.  His  hair  is  in  disorder.  Over  his 
nightshirt  he  has  thrown  a  coat.  He  shouts 
wildly.)  Rifkele!  Rifkele!  Is  Rifkele  here? 
(No  reply.  He  tears  the  curtains  of  the  com- 
partments violently  aside.)  Rifkele!  Where  is 
she?  (Waking  Reizel  and  Basha.)  Where  is 
Rifkele!    Rifkele!    Where  is  she? 

Reizel  and  Basha,  ruhhing  their  eyes  with  their 
sleeves,  as  if  awakened  from  sound  sleep. 
What?  ...  We  don't  know. 

Yekel 
You  don't  know?  .  .  .  You  don't  know?  .  .  . 
(Rushes  up  the  stairs,  almost  at  a  single  hound. 
Goes  out.  Pause.  There  is  a  sound  outside  of 
something  falling  down  the  stairs.  The  door  is 
sicddenly  hanged  open  and  Yekel  stumbles  in, 
dragging  Sarah  by  the  hair.  Both  are  in  night 
attire.  Yekel  pulls  Sarah  doivnstairs  by  the 
hair.  Points  to  the  cellar.)  Where  is  your 
daughter?  Your  daughter,  —  where  is  she? 
(Basha  and  Reizel  huddle  close  to  the  wall, 
trembling  with  terror.) 


QUICK  CURTAIN 
[67] 


ACT  III 


Scene:  Same  as  Act  I.  The  cupboard  and 
the  bureau  have  been  knocked  out  of  place. 
Clothes  and  linen  are  strewn  about  the  floor. 
The  door  to  Rifkele's  room  is  open,  and  from 
ivithin  the  light  of  a  candle  comes  across  the 
stage.  Sarah,  her  hair  dishevelled  and  her 
clothes  in  disarray,  is  going  about  the  room 
picking  up  the  things  that  lie  scattered  about. 
She  packs  them  into  a  bundle,  as  if  preparing 
to  leave,  yet  eventually  puts  most  of  the  articles 
back  into  their  proper  places. 

It  is  early  morning.  Through  the  closed  shut- 
ters penetrates  the  gray  light  of  coming  day. 


[70] 


Act  III 

Sarah 

Yekel!  What's  the  matter  with  you,  Yekel? 
{Goes  over  to  the  door  of  Bifkele's  room  and 
looks  inside.)  Why  are  you  sitting  there  like 
that?  {Turns  hack  and  continues  to  collect  the 
scattered  things.)  What  a  misfortune!  He 
wants  to  bring  the  whole  house  to  ruin.  {Re- 
turns to  Rifkele  's  door. )  Yekel !  Why  are  you 
so  silent?  What's  come  over  you?  {Turns 
hack,  tearfully.)  Did  you  ever  see?  A  person 
sits  down  before  the  Holy  Scroll  and  thinks  and 
thinks.  What  is  there  to  think  about?  A  mis- 
fortune has  befallen  us.  Go  to  the  police,  see 
the  captain.  .  .  Seek  out  the  man  by  hook  or 
crook.  .  .  There  is  yet  time.  {Returns  to  the 
door.)  Why  don't  you  say  something?  {She 
sits  down  upon  a  hundle  of  clothes  near  the 
door,  huries  her  face  in  her  hands  and  hegins  to 
iveep.)  He  sits  there  like  a  madman,  staring  at 
the  Holy  Scroll  and  mumbling.  He  neither  sees 
nor  hears.  What  on  earth  can  have  possessed 
him?  {Arises.  To  Yekel.)  It  makes  no  differ- 
ence to  me,  —  one  place  or  another.  If  you 
want  me  to  leave,  all  right.  I'll  go.  The  devil 
won't  take  me.  .  .  I'LL  earn  my  bread,  all  right, 
wherever  I  may  be.  {Resumes  her  packing, 
silently.    Pause.) 

[71]  .      . 


THE   GOD   OF   VENGEANCE 

Yekel,  enters  from  Bifkele's  room.  He  is  with- 
out hat  or  coat;  his  hair  is  in  disorder.  His 
eyes  have  a  wild  glare,  and  he  speaks  slowly, 
with  a  subdued,  hoarse  voice, 

I'll  go.  .  .  You'll  go.  .  .  Rifkele  wiU  go.  .  . 
Everything  and  everybody  will  go.  .  .  {Point- 
ing to  the  hrothel.)  Down  into  the  cellar.  .  . 
God  won't  have  it  otherwise.  .  . 

Sarah 
Yekel,  what's  possessed  you?  Have  you  gone 
crazy?  {Approaching  him.)  Consider  what 
you're  doing.  A  misfortune  has  befallen  us. 
Agreed.  To  whom  don't  misfortunes  happen? 
Come.  Let  us  hunt  out  Shloyme.  We'll  give 
him  two  or  three  hundred  roubles  and  let  him 
give  us  back  our  child.  He  '11  do  it,  all  right.  .  . 
"Well,  what  are  you  sitting  there  moping  about? 
What's  the  matter  with  you? 

Yekel,  in  the  same  hoarse  voice,  as  he  paces 
ah  out  the  room. 
It's  all  the  same  to  me  now.  My  soul  is  given 
over  to  the  devil.  Nothing  will  help.  It's  no 
use.  God  won't  have  it.  .  .  {He  stops  before 
the  window  and  peers  through  an  interstice  of 
the  shutter.) 

Sarah 
God  won't  have  it,  you  say?    You've  merely 
talked  yourself  into  that!     It's  you  that  won't 
have  it.     Do  you  love  your  daughter  ?     Yekel ! 

[72] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Yekel!  {Dragging  him  away  from  the  win- 
doiv.)  Wiiat's  come  over  you?  Act  while  there 
is  yet  time !  He  might  take  her  off  somewhere 
while  we're  wasting  time  here.  Let's  be  off  to 
him  at  once.  Hindel  must  surely  have  taken 
her  to  him.  What  are  you  standing  there  for? 
{Abruptly.)  I've  sent  for  Reb  Ali.  We'll 
hear  what  he  has  to  say.  {Pause.  Yekel  still 
peers  through  the  shutter  spaces.)  What  are 
you  staring  at  there ?  {Pause.)  WTiy  don't  you 
say  something?  Good  heavens,  its  enough  to 
drive  a  woman  insane  !  {Turns  away  and  hursts 
into  tears.) 

Yekel,  pacing  about  the  room  as  before. 
No  more  home.  .  .  No  more  wife.  .  .  no  more 
daughter.  .  .  Down  into  the  cellar.  .  .  Back  to 
the  brothel.  .  .  We  don't  need  any  daughter  now 
.  .  .  don't  need  her.  .  .  She's  become  what  her 
mother  was.  .  .  God  won't  have  it.  .  .  Back  to 
the  cellar.  .  .  Down  into  the  brothel ! 

Sarah 
So  you  want  to  go  back  to  the  cellar?  —  Into 
the  cellar,  then!  Much  I  care!  {Resumes  her 
packing.)  He  wants  to  ruin  us  completely. 
What  has  come  over  the  man?  {For  a  moment 
she  is  absorbed  in  reflection.)  If  you're  going 
to  stand  there  like  a  lunatic,  I'll  get  busy  my- 
self! {Takes  off  her  diamond  ear-rings.)  I'll 
go  over  to  Shlo3rme's  and  give  him  my  diamond 
ear-rings.     {From  her  bundle  she  draws  out  a 

[73] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

golden  chain.)  And  if  he  holds  back,  I'll  add  a 
hundred  rouble  note.  {She  searches  YeheVs 
trousers  pocket  for  his  pockethook.  He  offers  no 
resistance.)  Within  fifteen  minutes  {Throwing 
a  shawl  over  her  shoulders.)  Rifkele  will  be 
here.  {As  she  leaves.)  Shloyme  will  do  that 
for  me.     {Slams  the  door  behind  her.) 

Yekel,  walks  about  the  room,  his  head  bowed. 

It's  all  the  same  to  me  now.  .  .The  devil  got 
her,  too.  No  more  daughter.  .  .  No  more  Holy 
Scroll.  .  .  Into  the  brothel  with  everything.  .  . 
Back  to  the  brothel.  .  .  God  won't  have  it.  .  . 
{Long  pause.  Beizel  appears  at  the  door, 
thrusting  in  her  head.  Steals  into  the  room  and 
stops  near  the  entrance.  Yekel  notices  her,  and 
stares  at  her  vacantly.) 

Reizel,  stammering. 

I  went  for  Reb  Ali.  Your  wife  sent  me. 
He'll  be  here  soon. 

Yekel,  with  the  same  empty  stare. 

The  devil  has  won  her,  anyway.  No  use  now. 
Too  late.    God  won't  have  it. 

Reizel 
She  was  such  a  nice  girl.    What  a  shame ! 

Yekel 
Eyes  her  with  amazement. 
[74] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Reizel,  apologizing. 
Your  wife  told   me  to  wait  here   until   she 
came  back. 

Yekel 
Don't  be  afraid.     I  haven't  gone  insane  yet. 
Not  yet.    God  has  punished  me. 

Reizel 
Who  could  ever  have  expected  such  a  thing? 
She  was  such  a  pure  child.     Oh !  what  a  heart- 
breaking pity !    As  true  as  I  live.  .  . 

Reb  Ali,  enters,  carrying  a  lantern. 
What's  happened,  that  you  had  to  call  me 
before  daybreak?     {Going  to  the  window  and 
peering  through  the  shutter  spaces.)      It's  al- 
most time  for  the  morning  prayers. 

Yekel,  not  looking  at  Reh  Ali. 
The  Holy  Scroll  has  been  violated,  Reb  Ali. 
Desecrated  most  foully. 

Reb  Ali,  frightened. 
What  are  you  saying?    God  forbid,  the  whole 
town  will  have  to  atone  for  the  sin!    What  has 
happened?     Speak,  man!     Good  Lord  in  Hea- 
ven! 

Yekel 
Down  into  the  brothel.  .  .     {Pointing  below. 
Then  to  Reizel.)     Down  below,  with  the  rest  of 

[75] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

them.     Down  into  the  brothel.     No  more  Holy 
ScroU. 

Keb  Ali 
Man!    What  words  are  these!    What's  hap- 
pened here?     Speak! 

Keizel,  at  the  door.     Reassuring  Reh  Ali. 

No,  Rebbi.  Not  the  Holy  Scroll.  His  daugh- 
ter. .  .  Rifkele.  The  Holy  Scroll  is  undefiled. 
(Points  to  Rifkele's  room.)     Still  in  there. 

Reb  Ali,  tvith  a  sigh  of  relief. 
Blessed  be  His  name.    But  are  you  sure  that 
the  Scroll  is  undefiled? 

Reizel 
Yes,  Rebbi. 

Reb  Ali,  more  calmly,  spitting  out. 
Blessed  be  His  Name.  I  feel  easier  on  that 
score.  (To  Yekel.)  What  made  you  talk  such 
nonsense?  {To  Reizel,  without  looking  at  her.) 
Did  she  go  away?  Isn't  she  back  yet?  {To 
Yekel.)     Has  anybody  gone  to  look  for  her? 

Yekel 
My  daughter  is  holier  to  me  than  a  Holy 
Scroll. 

Reb  Ali 
Don't  talk  nonsense.     Just  keep   quiet   and 
don't  make  any  scenes.     Has  anybody  gone  yet 
to  look  for  her?     To  bring  her  back?     Well? 

[761 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

What  are  you  standing  there  for,  instead  of  go- 
ing after  her  ? 

Eeizel 
My  mistress  went  to  get  her. 

Reb  Ali 
Do  they  know  where  the  girl  went  ? 

Reizel 
Yes.    The  mistress  will  soon  fetch  her  home. 

Reb  Ali 

Fine!  Then  what's  all  this  commotion  about? 
The  whole  town  will  know  all  about  it  before 
long.  Such  things  should  be  kept  dark.  They're 
not  nice.  If  a  prospective  father-in-law  ever 
got  wind  of  the  story,  her  dowry  would  have 
to  be  raised  a  couple  of  hundred  roubles.  .  . 

Yekel 

It's  all  the  same  to  me  now.  Let  everybody 
know.  No  more  daughter.  .  .  No  more  Holy 
Scroll.  .  .  Into  the  cellar.  Into  the  brothel  with 
everything. 

Reb  Ali 

Fie!  You're  out  of  your  head  altogether. 
True,  a  misfortune  has  befallen  you.  May 
Heaven  watch  over  aU  of  us.  Well?  What? 
Misfortunes  happen  to  plenty  of  folks.  The 
Lord  sends  aid  and  things  turn  out  all  right. 
The  important  point  is  to  keep  it  a  secret. 
Hear  nothing.     See  nothing.     Just  wash  your 

[77] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

hands  clean  of  it  and  forget  it.  {To  Reizel.) 
Be  careful  what  you  say.  Don't  let  it  travel 
any  further,  God  forbid.  Do  you  hear?  (  Turns 
to  Yekel,  who  is  staring  vacantly  into  space.)  I 
had  a  talk  with.  .  .  (Looks  around  to  see  wheth- 
er Reizel  is  still  present.  Seeing  her,  he  stops. 
After  a  pause  he  begins  anew,  more  softly,  look- 
ing at  Reizel  as  a  hint  for  her  to  leave.)  With 
er,  er.  .  .  (Casts  a  significant  glance  at  Reizel, 
who  at  last  understands,  and  leaves.)  I  had  a 
talk  with  the  groom's  father.  I  spoke  to  him  be- 
tween the  afternoon  and  evening  prayers,  at 
the  synagogue.  He's  almost  ready  to  talk  busi- 
ness. Of  course  I  gave  him  to  understand  that 
the  bride  doesn't  boast  a  very  high  pedigree, 
but  I  guess  another  hundred  roubles  will  fix 
that  up,  all  right.  Nowadays,  pedigrees  don't 
count  as  much  as  they  used  to.  With  God's 
help  I'll  surely  be  here  this  Sabbath,  with  the 
groom's  father.  We'll  go  down  to  the  Dayon* 
and  have  him  examine  the  young  man  in  his 
religious  studies.  .  .  But  nobody  must  get  wind 
of  this  tale.  It  might  spoil  everything.  The 
father  comes  of  a  fine  family  and  the  son  car- 
ries a  smart  head  on  his  shoulders.  There,  there. 
Calm  yourself.  Trust  in  the  Lord  and  every- 
thing will  turn  out  for  the  best.  With  God's 
help  I  am  going  home  to  prepare  for  the  morn- 
ing prayer.  And  as  soon  as  the  girl  returns, 
notify  me.    Remember,  now.     (About  to  go.) 

*  Assistant  to  the  Rabbi,   and  usually  well  versed  in  religious 
law. 

[78] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Yekel,  arises  and  grasps  Beb  Ali's  arm. 
Listen  to  me,  Rebbi.     Take  your  Holy  Scroll 
along  with  you.     I  don't  need  it  any  more. 

Reb  Ali,  thunderstruck. 
What  are  you  talking  about?    What  has  pos- 
sessed you?     Have  you  gone  stark  mad? 

Yekel 
My   daughter   has   gone   to   a   brothel.      The 
Scroll  has  been  desecrated.     God  has  punished 
me. 

Reb  Ali,  trying  to  interrupt  him. 
What  are  you   raving  about? 

Yekel 
I  am  a  woeful  sinner.  I  know  it  well.  He 
should  have  broken  my  feet  beneath  me,  —  or 
taken  away  my  life  in  its  prime.  But  what  did 
He  want  of  my  daughter?  My  poor,  blameless 
daughter  ? 

Reb  Ali 
Hear  me.    You  mustn't  talk  like  that  against 
the  Lord. 

Yekel,  excited. 
And  why  not  ?  I  may  speak  everything.  It 's 
the  truth.  Yes,  I  am  Yekel  Tchaftchovitch,  all 
right.  The  ''Uncle"  of  a  brothel.  But  the 
truth  I  may  speak  even  to  God.  I'm  afraid  no 
longer.    I  went  into  the  House  of  Study  to  you. 

[793 


THE    GOD   OF   VENGEANCE 

I  told  you  everything.  So  you  advised  me  to 
have  a  Holy  Scroll  written.  In  there  I  placed 
it,  —  in  her  room.  I  stood  before  it  night 
after  night,  and  used  to  say  to  it,  **You  are 
really  a  God.  You  know  everything  I  do.  You 
will  punish  me.  Very  well.  Punish  me.  Pun- 
ish my  wife.  We  have  both  sinned.  But  my 
poor,  innocent  daughter.  Guard  her.  Have  pity 
upon  her!'* 

Reb  Ali 
But  no  evil  has  befallen  her.    She  will  return. 
She  will  yet  make  a  fine  pious  Jewish  wife. 

Yekel 
No  use.  .  .  The  devil  has  won  her.  She'll  be 
drawn  to  it.  Once  she  has  made  a  beginning.  .  . 
she'll  not  stop.  .  .  If  not  today,  tomorrow.  The 
devil  has  won  her  soul.  I  know.  Yes,  I  know 
only  too  well. 

Reb  Ali 
Don't  speak  folly,  I  tell  you.  Calm  yourself. 
Pray  fervently  for  the  Lord's  pardon.  Give  up 
this  business  of  yours.  With  God's  help  your 
daughter  will  yet  marry  just  like  aU  Jewish 
women,  and  bring  you  plenty  of  happiness. 

Yekel 
Too  late,  Rebbi.  Too  late.  If  only  she  had 
died  in  her  childhood,  I  should  have  nothing  to 
complain  about.  .  .  Then  I  'd  know  she  was  dead, 
—  that  I  had  buried  an  innocent  creature.  .  .  I 
would  visit  her  grave  and  say  to  myself,  ''Here 

[80] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

lies  your  child.  Even  if  you  yourself  are  a 
sinner,  here  lies  a  pure  daughter  of  yours,  a 
virtuous  child. ' '  But  as  it  is,  what  is  left  me  on 
earth?  I  myself  am  a  sinner.  I  leave  behind 
me  sinful  offspring.  And  so  passes  sin  from 
generation  to  generation. 

Reb  Ali 
Don't  speak  like  that.    A  Jew  must  not  utter 
such  things.     Trust  in  the  Lord,  and  say  ''The 
past  is  dead  and  gone." 

Yekel,  interrupting. 
Don't  try  to  console  me,  Rebbi.  I  know  that 
it's  too  late.  Sin  encircles  me  and  mine  like  a 
rope  around  a  person's  neck.  God  wouldn't 
have  it.  But  I  ask  you,  Rebbi,  why  wouldn't 
He  have  it?  What  harm  would  it  have  done 
Him  if  I,  Yekel  Tchaftchovitch,  should  have 
been  raised  from  the  mire  into  which  I  have 
fallen?  {He  goes  into  Rifkele's  room,  carries 
out  the  Sacred  Parchment,  raises  it  aloft  and 
speaks.)  You,  Holy  Scroll,  I  know,  —  you  are 
a  great  God !  For  you  are  our  Lord !  I,  Yekel 
Tchaftchovitch,  have  sinned.  {Beats  his  hreast 
with  his  closed  fist.)  My  sins.  .  .  my  sins.  .  . 
Work  a  miracle,  —  send  down  a  pillar  of  fire  to 
consume  me.  On  this  very  spot,  where  I  now 
stand !  Open  up  the  earth  at  my  feet  and  let  it 
swallow  me!  But  shield  my  daughter.  Send 
her  back  to  me  as  pure  and  innocent  as  when 
she  left.     I  know.  .  .  to  You  everything  is  pos- 

[81] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

sible.  Work  a  miracle!  For  You  are  an  al- 
mighty God.  And  if  You  don't,  then  You're 
no  God  at  all,  I  tell  j^ou.  I,  Yekel  Tchaftchov- 
itch,  tell  You  that  You  are  as  vengeful  as  any 
human  being.  .  . 

Reb  Ali,  jumps  up  and  snatches  the  Parchment 
from  YeheVs  grasp. 
Do  you  realize  whom  you  are  talking  to? 
{Looks  at  him  sternly ,  then  takes  the  Scroll 
hack  to  Rifkele's  room.)  Implore  pardon  of 
the  Holy  Scroll! 

Yekel 
The  truth  may  be  spoken  even  before  God's 
very  face!     {Follows   Beh    Ali   into    Rifkele's 
room.)    If  He's  a  true  God,  then  let  Him  reveal 
His  miracle  here  on  this  very  spot! 

Sarah,  runs  in  excitedly.  Hastens  over  to  the 
mirror  and  begins  to  arrange  her  hair  with  her 
hands.     Calls. 

Come  in,  Shloyme.    Why  do  you  remain  out- 
side? 

Shloyme,  from  without. 
Where  is  Yekel?    Let  him  know  {Comes  in.) 
that  I'll  do  anything  for  one  of  our  brotherhood. 
Even  if  he  did  insult  me. 

Sarah,  runs  over  to  Rifkele's  door.    Locks  it, 
leaving  Yekel  and  Reb  Ali  inside. 
Let  him  stay  there.     {Smiling.)     These  last 

[82] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

few  days  he's  turned  into  a  saint.  .  .  Seeks  the 
company  of  pious  Jews.  (Runs  over  to  the  en- 
trance door  and  locks  it.)  And  what  a  bride 
you  have  picked  out!  Such  a  pest  your  Hindel 
is,  I  must  say !  You  can 't  shake  yourself  rid  of 
her!  She  trails  after  you  as  if  you  already  be- 
longed to  her.  I'll  wager  she's  tracked  you  to 
this  place,  too!  {With  a  wily  smile.)  Ah, 
Shloyme,  Shloyme,  such  goods  you  've  selected ! 
(She  goes  over  to  the  window  and  opens  the 
shutters.  The  room  grows  lighter.)  Why  have 
they  closed  up  the  place,  anyway?  As  if  in 
mourning ! 

Shloyme 
Don't  worry,  I  tell  you.  Once  I've  said 
''yes,"  I  mean  it.  Whoever  else  I'd  refuse,  I'll 
do  it  for  you.  Even  if  you  have  treated  me 
shabbily  of  late.  .  .  Well,  never  mind.  Hindel 
may  go  to  perdition  for  all  it'll  help  her. 

Sarah,  glides  over  to  him,  seizes  his  hand  and 
looks  straight  into  his  eyes. 
A  fellow  as  young  as  you,  —  how  can  you 
take  such  a  scarecrow  as  Hindel?  Who  is  she? 
She's  roamed  around  from  one  brothel  to  anoth- 
er. Why,  a  young  chap  like  you !  And  you  can 
make  a  tidy  bit  now.  Then  what  do  you  need 
her  for?  With  your  couple  of  hundred  roubles 
why  can't  you  catch  some  fine,  respectable  girl? 
Why  not?  Aren't  you  as  young  and  handsome 
as  any  other,  I'd  like  to  know?     {Slaps  him 

[83] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

across  the  shoulders.)  You  just  listen  to  me, 
Shloyme.  You  know  I  was  never  unkind  to  you, 
even  if  I  haven't  been  all  I  might  have,  lately. 
But  I've  always  been  Sarah  to  you.  Isn't  that 
so?     (Looking  him  straight  in  the  eyes.) 

Shloyme,  twirling  his  moustache. 
The  devil!  Deuce  knows!  I  let  my  head  be 
turned  by  the  girl.  .  .  Just  for  the  time  being.  .  . 
to  get  a  few  roubles.  .  .  Do  you  really  think  I 
meant  to  marry  her?  My  mother  would  have 
cursed  every  bone  in  my  body.  I  have  a  respec- 
table mother.     And  my  sister? 

Sarah 
Haven't  you  any  better  business  prospects 
than  to  tie  yourself  to  such  a  fright  and  open  a 
place  with  her?  Much  there  is  in  the  business 
these  days,  anyway.  It  doesn't  pay  to  have  to 
do  with  outcasts  of  her  type.  (Comes  close  to 
him  and  thrusts  her  ear-rings  into  his  hand.) 
Here,  take  these  and  here's  another  hundred 
roubles.    Now  tell  me  where  Rifkele  is. 

Shloyme 
What's  true  is  true.  You  were  once  a  good 
woman.  (Winks  at  her.)  Lately  you've  been 
spoiled.  But  that's  another  matter.  Just  re- 
member that  Shloyme  is  one  of  your  own  crowd. 
(Pockets  her  ear-rings.) 

Sabah 

And  now  tell  me,  Shloyme,  where  she  is.    You 

[84] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

may  tell  me  everything,  even  if  I  am  her  mother. 
You  know,  such  things  don't  affect  me.  Tell 
me,  —  have  you  led  her  off  somewhere  to  a.  .  .  ? 

Shloyme 
She  is  very  near.  .  .  If  I  say  I'll  bring  her 
here,  you  may  depend  upon  me.  And  listen,  — 
may  I  have  such  luck,  what  a  prize  she  would 
make !  Such  eyes,  such  motions.  And  as  clever 
as  they  make   'em! 

Sarah 
Ha!  Ha!  There's  life  to  Sarah  yet.  .  .  But 
tell  me,  Shloyme,  where  have  you  put  her?  You 
may  speak  freely  to  me.  {Places  an  arm  about 
him  and  slaps  him  over  the  shoulder  with  the 
other,  looking  into  his  eyes  coquettishly.)  Come, 
tell  me,  good  brother. 

Shloyme 
Not  far  from  here.    Not  far.  .  .    (A  thumping 
of  fists  is  heard  on  the  door  leading  to  the  out- 
side.) 

HiNDEL,  from  without, 
You  know  nothing  about  her !    Nothing  at  all ! 

Sarah 
Let  her  hammer  her  head  against  the  wall. 
Goodness  me!  How  she  holds  him  in  her 
clutches !  Ha,  ha !  He  dare  not  leave  her  for  a 
moment!  {Making  eyes  at  him.)  Shame  your- 
self, to  have  affairs  with  trash  like  that! 
{Shloyme    meditates    for    a    moment,      Sarah 

[85] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

seizes  him  by  the  arm  and  draws  him  aside.) 
See  here.  What  do  you  need  her  for?  I'll  get 
a  girl  for  you.  A  dream.  You'll  see.  (Winks 
at  him.) 

HiNDEL,  forcing  the  door  open,  rushes  in. 

What  are  they  pestering  him  about?  Bad 
dreams  to  them !  Their  daughter  runs  away.  .  . 
{Seizing  Shloyme  hy  the  hand.)  He  doesn't 
know  where  she  is.  What  do  they  want  of  you, 
anyway  ? 

Sarah,  sits  down,  glances  teasingly  at  Shloyme 
and  points  to  Hindel. 
So  that's  your  style,  eh?     That  thing  there? 
Ha,  ha! 

Hindel,  looking  around. 
She  laughs  like  an  evil  spirit !  {To  Shloyme.) 
You  know  nothing  whatever  about  Rifkele. 
{Takes  him  aside.  Softly.)  Let's  be  off  to 
Lodz  at  once.  We'll  marry  there.  .  .  Rent  a 
house.  .  .  With  two  girls  like  these  we  can.  .  . 
Consider  what  you're  doing!  {Aloud.)  What 
are  they  pestering  you  for?  You  know  nothing 
at  all  about  her.  {Pulling  him  out.)  Come, 
Shloyme.     {He  is  undecided.) 

Sarah,  aloud,  with  a  wily  smile. 

Well,   why   don't  you   go    along    with    her, 

Shloyme  ?    She 's  come  for  you.  .  .  to  take  you  to 

Lodz.  .  .  to  get  married.  .  .  and  set  up  house. 

Tee-hee!     {Comes  close  to  Shloyme  and  draws 

[86] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

him  away  from  Hindel.)  A  young  chap  like 
you,  with  a  respectable  mother,  —  and  your 
father  was  a  pious  Jew.  .  .  What  does  she  want 
of  you?    What  is  she  pestering  you  for? 

Shloyme,  resolutely. 
Come,   Sarah.     We'll  get  Rifkele. 

Hindel,  clapping  her  hand  across  his  mouth. 
You'll  not  tell.  You  know  nothing  about  her. 
(She  runs  over  to  the  door,  shuts  it  and  stands 
with  her  hack  against  it.)  I  won't  let  you  go 
out.  {Runs  over  to  Shloyme  and  seizes  his 
hand.)  Remember,  Shloyme.  It's  all  right  for 
them.  Then  why  not  for  usf  Come,  Shloyme. 
We'll  leave  this  place.  .  .  And  we'll  do  such  a 
business  —  such  a  flourishing  business! 

Shloyme 
We've  heard  all  that.  .  .  we've  heard  it  before. 
{Thrusts  her  away.)     We'll  talk  that  over  later. 
I  haven't  any  time  now.     {Goes  out  with  Sarah, 
followed  by  Hindel.) 

Sarah,   running   hack.     Opens   Rifkele's   door 
and  calls  to  the  men  inside. 
Rifkele  is  here! 

Hindel,  from  the  entry. 
I'll  not  let  you.     You  won't  tell! 

Shloyme,  in  the  doorway. 
Come,  Sarah. 

[87] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Sarah,  runs  after  him. 
I'm  coming,  Shloyme.     {Sarah,  Shloyme  and 
Hindel  leave.) 

Eeb  Ali,  enters,  with  Yekel. 
Praised  be  the  Lord!  Praised  be  the  Heav- 
enly Father!  {Following  Yekel,  who  paces 
ahout  the  room.)  See  how  the  Almighty, 
blessed  be  His  Name,  has  come  to  your  aid  ?  He 
punishes,  —  yes.  But  he  sends  the  remedy  be- 
fore the  disease.  Despite  your  having  sinned, 
despite  your  having  uttered  blasphemy.  {Ad- 
monishi7ig  him.)  From  now  on  see  to  it  that 
you  never  speak  such  words,  —  that  you  have 
reverence,  great  reverence.  .  .  Know  what  a 
Holy  Scroll  is,  and  what  a  learned  Jew  is.  .  . 
You  must  go  to  the  synagogue,  and  you  must 
make  a  generous  donation  to  the  students  of  the 
Law.  You  must  fast  in  atonement,  and  the 
Lord  will  forgive  you.  {Pause.  Beh  Ali  looks 
sternly  at  Yekel,  who  has  continued  to  walk 
about  the  room,  absorbed  in  his  thoughts.) 
What?  Aren't  you  listening  to  me?  With  the 
aid  of  the  Almighty  everything  will  turn  out 
for  the  best.  I'm  going  at  once  to  the  groom's 
father  and  we'll  discuss  the  whole  matter  in  de- 
tail. But  be  sure  not  to  haggle.  A  hundred 
roubles  more  or  less,  —  remember  who  you  are 
and  who  he  is.  And  what's  more,  see  to  it 
that  you  settle  the  dowry  right  away  and  in- 
dulge in  no  idle  talk  about  the  wedding.  Hea- 
ven forbid,  —  another  misfortune  might  occur! 

[88] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Such  matters  should  not  be  delayed.  {Glares 
angrily  at  Yekel.)  What!  You  pay  no  atten- 
tion?    I'm  talking  to  you! 

Yekel,  as  if  to  himself. 
One  thing  I  want  to  ask  her.    One  thing  only. 
But  she  must  tell  me  the  truth,  —  the  whole 
truth.     Yes,  or  no. 

Reb  Ali 
Don't  sin,  man.     Thank  the  good  Lord  that 
He  has  helped  you. 

Yekel,  as  he  fore. 
I'll  not  lay  a  finger  upon  her.     Just  let  her 
answer  the  truth.     Yes,  or  no. 

Reb  Ali 
The  truth.  The  truth.  Heaven  will  help  you 
.  .  .  Everything  will  turn  out  for  the  best.  I'm 
going  to  the  young  man's  father  directly.  He's 
over  at  the  synagogue  and  must  surely  be  wait- 
ing for  me.  (Looks  around.)  Tell  your  wife 
to  put  the  house  in  order  in  the  meantime.  And 
you,  prepare  the  contract,  and  at  once,  so  that 
he'll  have  no  time  to  discover  anything  amiss 
and  withdraw.  Arrange  the  wedding  date  and 
have  the  bride  go  at  once  to  her  parents-in-law. 
No  idle  chatter,  remember.  Keep  silent,  so  that 
nobody  wiU  learn  anything  about  it.  {Ready  to 
go.)  And  cast  all  this  nonsense  out  of  your 
head.     Trust  in  the  Lord  and  rejoice  in  His 

[89] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

comfort.  (At  the  door.)  Tell  your  wife  to  tidy 
up  the  place.     (Leaves.) 

Yekel,  strides  nervously  to  and  fro. 
Let  her  only  tell  me  the  truth.     The  plain 
truth.     (A  long  silence.) 

Sarah,  on  the  threshold. 
Come  in.  Come  in.  Your  father  won't  beat 
you.  (Pause.)  Go  in,  I  tell  you.  (Pushes  Rif- 
kele  into  the  room.  Rifkele  has  a  shawl  over  her 
head.  She  stands  silent  and  motionless  at  the 
door,  a  shameless  look  in  her  eyes,  biting  her 
lips,)  Well,  what  are  you  standing  there  for, 
my  darling?  Much  pleasure  you've  brought  us 
...  in  return  for  our  trouble  in  bringing  you 
up.  We'll  square  that  with  you  later.  (Inter- 
rupting herself.)  Get  into  your  room.  Comb 
your  hair.  Put  on  a  dress.  We're  expecting 
guests.  (To  Yekel.)  I  just  met  Reb  Ali.  He's 
going  for  the  groom's  father.  (Looks  about  the 
room.)  Goodness  me!  How  the  place  looks! 
(She  begins  hastily  to  place  things  in  order.) 

Yekel,  seeing  Rifkele,  fastens  his  gaze  upon 
her,  approaches  her,  takes  her  gently  by  the 
hand  and  leads  her  to  the  table. 

Don't  be  afraid.  I'll  not  hurt  you.  (He  sits 
doivn.)  Sit  down  here  beside  me.  (Pushes  a 
chair  toward  her.)     Sit  down. 

[90] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

RiFKELE,  provoked,  hides  her  face  in  her  shawl. 
I  can  stand  just  as  well. 

Yekel 
Sit  down.     {He  seats  her.)     Don't  be  afraid. 

RiFKELE,  from  behind  the  shawl. 
Why  should  I  be  afraid? 

Yekel,  speaks  in  a  faltering  voice. 
Rifkele,  tell  me,  Rifkele.  You  are  my  daugh- 
ter I  am  your  father.  {Points  to  Sarah.) 
She  is  your  mother.  Tell  me,  my  daughter^ 
Tell  me  the  whole  truth.  Don't  be  afraid  ot 
me  Don't  feel  ashamed  before  me.  I  know, — 
not  for  your  sins. .  .not  for  your  sins. . .  For  my 
sins,  mine.  .  .  For  your  mother's  sins.  .  .  our 
sins.  .  .  Tell  me,  daughter.  .  . 

Sarah 
Just  look  at  the  way  he's  sat  down  to  cross 
examine  her !  What  does  he  want  of  her  ?  The 
moment  she  arrives!  Let  her  go  m  and  dress. 
We'll  soon  be  having  company.  {About  to  tane 
Rifkele  away.) 

Yekel 
Let  her  go,  I  say !    ( Thrusts  Sarah  away  from 

Rifkele.) 

[91] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Sarah 
He's  gone  crazy  today.    What's  possessed  the 
man?      {Resumes  her  cleaning.) 

Yekel,  seating  Rifkele  beside  him. 
I'll  not  beat  you.  {Clutching  her  slender 
throat  with  his  fingers.)  If  I  had  only  twisted 
your  neck  for  you,  like  this,  before  you  ever 
grew  up,  it  would  have  been  better  for  you,  and 
for  me.  .  .  But  don't  be  afraid.  I  won't  harm 
you.  It's  not  for  your  sins  that  God  has  pun- 
ished us.  No.  It's  for  ours.  I  guarded  you 
like  the  apple  of  my  eye.  I  had  a  Holy  Scroll 
written  for  you.  I  placed  it  in  your  room  and 
prayed  to  it  for  days  and  nights  at  a  time. 
' '  Shield  my  child  from  evil !  Visit  your  punish- 
ment upon  me!  On  her  mother!  But  spare 
my  daughter!"  You'd  grow  up,  I  planned,  and 
I'd  make  a  fine  match  for  you.  I'd  get  you  a 
respectable  young  man  for  a  husband.  I  'd  keep 
you  both  here  with  me,  at  my  expense.  You 
would  both  live.  .  . 

Rifkele,  still  hidden  behind  her  shawl. 
There's  plenty  of  time  for  me  to  marry.    I'm 
not  so  old. 

Sarah 
And  she  has  the   impudence  to   argue  with 
him! 

[92] 


THE   GOD   OF   VENGEANCE 

RiFKELE 

They  want  to  turn  me  into  a  Rabbi's  wife.* 
Why  didn't  mamma  marry  early? 

Sarah 
Hold  your  tongue,  or  I'll  slap  you  black  and 
blue!    Just  listen  to  what  she's  picked  up  in  a 
single  night! 

RiFKELE,  misunderstanding. 
Yes,  I  know  everything  now. 

Yekel 
Let  her  alone!  {With  nervous  haste.)  I 
want  to  ask  her  only  one  thing.  One  thing 
only.  Tell  me  the  truth.  .  .  I'll  not  beat  you. 
I'U  not  lay  a  finger  upon  you.  You're  not  to 
blame.  (Almost  unahle  to  speak.)  Tell  me 
frankly,  the  —  the  —  whole  truth  tell  me.  .  . 
The  truth.  .  . 

Sarah 
What  truth  shall  she  tell  you?    What  do  you 
want  of  the  girl? 

Yekel 
I'm  not  asking  you.  .  .  {Arises ^  seizing  Rif- 
kele  hy  the  hand.)  Don't  feel  ashamed  before 
me.  I'm  your  father.  You  may  tell  me  every- 
thing. .  .  Speak  openly.  .  .  Are  you  —  are  you 
still  as  pure  as  when  you  left  this  house?    Are 

*  Colloquial  expression  signifying  extreme  piety. 

[93] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

you  still  a  virtuous  Jewish  daughter?     (Shout- 
ing.)    Yes,  —  a  virtuous  Jewish  daughter? 

Sarah,  tearing  Bifkele  out  of  YekeVs  grasp. 
What  do  you  want  of  the  girl?    The  child  is 
innocent  of  all  evil.     Let  her  go. 

Yekel,  holding  Bifkele  firmly,  and  trying  to 
look  straight  into  her  eyes. 
Just  tell  me  the  truth.  I'll  believe  you.  Look 
me  straight  in  the  face.  Are  you  still  an  inno- 
cent Jewish  child?  Look  me  in  the  face! 
Straight  in  the  eye!  [Rifkele,  despite  YekeVs 
efforts y  hides  her  face  in  the  shawl.) 

Sarah 

Why  don 't  you  take  that  shawl  off  your  head  ? 

You  don't  need  it  indoors.     [Removes  Rifkele's 

shaivl.     Rifkele  resists,    hut    losing    her    grasp 

upon  the  shawl  she  hides  her  face  in  her  gown.) 

Yekel,  loudly. 

Tell  me  now.    Don't  be  ashamed.    I'll  do  you 

no  harm.     {Holding  her  firmly  hy  the  hand  and 

looking  her  directly  in  the  eye.)     Are  you  still 

a  chaste  Jewish  daughter?  —  Tell  me,  at  once! 

Rifkele,  trying  to  hide  her  face. 
I  don't  know.  .  . 

Yekel,  at  the  top  of  his  voice. 
You  don't  know!     You  don't  know!     Then 
who  does  know?     What  do  you  mean,  —  you 

[94] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

''don't   know?"     The   truth,    now!      Are   you 
still  — 

RiFKELE,  tearing  herself  from  Yekel. 
It  was  all  right  for  mamma,  wasn't  it?    And 
it  was  all  right  for  you,  wasn't  it?    I  know  all 
about  it!  .  .  .     {Hiding  her  face  in  her  hands.) 
Beat  me  !     Beat  me  !     Go  on ! 

Sarah 

Rushes  over  to  Rifkele  with  arms  upraised^ 
ready  to  strike  her.  Yekel  casts  Sarah  aside  with 
a  single  hloiu,  and  falls  into  a  chair,  pale  and 
hreathing  hard.  Rifkele  sinks  to  the  floor,  weep- 
ing hysterically.  A  long  pause.  Sarah,  plainly 
upset,  paces  aimlessly  about  the  room.  After  a 
while  she  takes  a  hroom  and  hegins  to  sweep  the 
room;  her  silence  betrays  a  feeling  of  guilt. . . 
She  then  approaches  Rifkele,  lifts  her  by  the 
hand  and  leads  her  off  stage  into  the  room.  Yek^l 
is  rooted  to  his  place.  Sarah  returns,  runs  over 
to  Yekel,  grasps  his  hand  and  entreats  him. 

Yekel,  consider  what  you  are  doing,  for  God's 
sake  !  Who  need  know  anything ?  (Pause.)  Calm 
yourself.  (Pause.)  Rifkele  will  get  married  and 
we'll  live  to  have  plenty  of  happiness  from  her. 
(Yekel  is  silent.)  Put  on  your  coat,  —  they'll 
soon  be  here.  (Abruptly.)  Who  need  know  any- 
thing at  all  alDout  it? 

Yekel 
Silent.     Stares  vacantly  into  space. 

[95] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

Sarah,  brings  in  YekeVs  coat  and  hat  and 
places  them  upon  him.  He  offers  no  resistance. 
What  a  misfortune!  What  a  misfortune! 
Who  could  have  foreseen  such  a  thing?  {She 
straightens  YekeVs  coat,  then  puts  the  room  in 
order.  Runs  into  Rifkele's  room.  She  is  heard 
hiding  something  there,  and  soon  returns.)  I'll 
have  a  reckoning  with  you  later.  {Putting  the 
finishing  touches  to  the  room.)  Terrible  days, 
these.  Bring  up  children  with  so  much  care 
and  anxiety,  and.  .  .  Ah !  {Footsteps  are  heard 
outside.  Sarah  runs  over  to  Yekel  and  pulls  his 
sleeve.)  They're  here!  For  the  love  of  God, 
Yekel,  remember !  Everything  can  be  fixed  yet. 
{Enter  Reh  Ali  arid  a  stranger.  Sarah  hastily 
thrusts  her  hair  under  her  wig  and  goes  to  the 
door  to  ivelcome  the  visitors.) 

Reb  Ali 
Good  morning. 

Sarah 

Good  morning.  Good  year.  Welcome. 
{Somewhat  confused,  she  places  chairs  before 
the  guests  and  motions  them  to  be  seated.) 

Reb  Ali,  in  a  cheerful  mood. 
Well,  and  where  is  the  bride's  father?  {Look- 
ing about  for  Yekel.) 

Sarah,  smiling,  to  her  husband. 
Why  don't  you  show  yourself,  Yekel?     {She 
[96] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

thricsts  a  chair  taivard  him.     The  visitors  ex- 
press their  greetings  and  take  their  seats.) 

Reb  Ali,  gesticulating. 
Let's  get  right  down  to  business.  (To  the 
stranger,  pointing  to  Tekel.)  This  gentleman 
wishes  to  unite  families  with  you.  He  has  an 
excellent  daughter  and  wants  as  her  husband  a 
scholar  well  versed  in  Rabbinical  lore.  He'll 
support  the  couple  for  life. 

The  Stranger 
That  sounds  inviting. 

Yekel,  arising. 
Yes,  my  friend.    A  virtuous  Jewish  daughter 
...  a  model  child.  .  . 

Reb  Ali,  to  the  stranger. 
He's  ready  to  settle  upon  her  a  dowry  of 
five  hundred  roubles  cash  at  the  time  of  the  en- 
gagement. .  .  And  he'll  support  the  couple  for 
life.     He  will  treat  your  son  as  his  own  child. 

The  Stranger 
Well,  —  there 's  little  need  of  my  boosting  my 
goods.     With  two  years  more   of  study,   he'll 
have  the  whole  learning  at  his  finger  tips. 

Reb  Ali 

Naturally,  naturally.  This  gentleman  will 
guard  him  like  the  apple  of  his  eye.  He'll 
have  the  best  of  everything  here.    He'll  be  able 

[97] 


THE   GOD    OF   VENGEANCE 

to  sit  and  study  the  Holy  Law  day  and  night, 
to  his  heart's  content. 

Yekel,  indicating  RifkeWs  room. 

Yes,  he  '11  sit  inside  there  and  study  the  sacred 
books.  .  .  I  have  a  virtuous  Jewish  daughter. 
{Goes  into  the  room  and  drags  Rifkele  out  hy 
force.  She  is  only  half  dressed,  her  hair  in  dis- 
order. He  points  to  her. )  Your  son  will  marry 
a  virtuous  Jewish  daughter,  I  say.  She  will 
bear  him  pure,  Jewish  children.  .  .  even  as  all 
pious  daughters.  {To  Sarah.)  Isn't  that  so? 
{Laughing  wildly ,  to  the  stranger.)  Yes,  in- 
deed, my  friend,  —  she'll  make  a  pure,  pious 
little  mate.  My  wife  will  lead  her  under  the 
wedding  canopy.  .  .  Down  into  the  brothel ! 
Down  below!  {Pointing  to  the  cellar.)  Down 
into  the  brothel!  {Dragging  Rifkele  hy  her 
hair  to  the  door.)  Down  into  the  brothel  with 
you !    Down ! 

Sarah,  rushing  madly  over  to  Yekel. 
Good  God!    He 's  gone  stark  mad !     {She  tries 
to  tear  Rifkele  away  from   Yekel;  he   thrusts 
Sarah  aside  and  drags  his  daughter  out  hy  the 
hair.) 

Yekel 

Down  into  the  brothel  with  you!  {He  leaves 
together  with  Rifkele,  whose  cries  are  heard 
from  outside.) 

[98] 


THE  GOD  OF  VENGEANCE 

The  Stranger,  ivith  amazement  and  fright. 
What  is  this?     (Bel)  Ali  beckons  to  him,  pulls 

him  by  the  sleeve  and  points  to  the  door.    The 

stranger  stands  motionless  in  his  astonishment. 

Reb  Ali  draws  him  to  the  door.     They  leave. 

Pause.) 

Yekel,  enters,  dragging  back  with  him  Reb  Ali, 
whom  he  has  met  on  the  stairs. 
Take  the  Holy  Scroll  along  with  you !    I  don 't 
need  it  any  more ! 


CURTAIN 


[99] 


BOSTON  PUBLIC  LIBRARY 

,   lllllllli, 

3  9999  05987  616  7 


6